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Overnight Defense: Lawmakers question military's lapse after Texas shooting | Trump asks North Korea to 'make a deal' | Senate panel approves Army pick

THE TOPLINE: Members of Congress are zeroing in on the military's reporting system for violent crimes after the church shooting in Texas, questioning whether there is a systemic problem that must be addressed.

The identified gunman, Devin Kelley, received a "bad conduct" discharge from the Air Force in 2014 after being court-martialed on a domestic violence charge.

Kelley's court-martial conviction should have been reported to the FBI's National Criminal Information Center database. Had it been, it may have been harder for him to purchase a firearm legally.

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But Air Force officials on Monday said the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigation did not enter Kelley's information into the system.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday slammed the Air Force for the oversight, calling it "appalling."

"I understand that [Air Force] Secretary [Heather] Wilson has initiated an investigation, but I don't believe that the Air Force should be left to self-police after such tragic consequences. Furthermore, I am concerned that the failure to properly report domestic violence convictions may be a systemic issue," Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said.

Thornberry commended the Pentagon inspector general for opening an investigation into the matter and vowed that his committee would conduct "comprehensive oversight."

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here.

 

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) also joined in on the criticism, promising "rigorous oversight" after the Air Force revealed it did not add Kelley to the FBI database.

"The Senate Armed Services Committee will conduct rigorous oversight of the department's investigation into the circumstances that led to this failure," McCain, the committee's chairman, said in a statement. "It's critical that each of the military services take the steps necessary to ensure that similar mistakes have not occurred and will not occur in the future."

Read more on his statement here.

 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (R-Texas) meanwhile announced he will introduce legislation that would require all federal departments to upload conviction records to the FBI's database.

The Texas Republican, citing the Justice Department, added that the number of records currently being shared with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is "staggeringly low."

"That is unacceptable and it must change."

The Hill's Jordain Carney has more here.

 

The House on Tuesday passed legislation to provide mental health care for veterans who would otherwise be ineligible because they received an other-than-honorable discharge from the military. Under current law, certain veterans who receive an other-than-honorable discharge are not eligible for federal benefits like mental health care unless the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines otherwise.

Cristina Marcos has more on that here.

 

And the White House's nominee for assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs said during a Tuesday Senate hearing that it's "insane" that civilians can buy assault rifles in the United States.

Read about that here.

 

TRUMP WRESTLES WITH HANDLING AMERICAN ENEMY COMBATANTS: It has been eight weeks since an unidentified American citizen suspected of fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was captured by a Syrian rebel militia and turned over to the American military in Iraq.

He has remained in military custody since, with no indication of when -- or if -- he will be turned over to the U.S. Justice Department to face criminal prosecution.

His case loomed in the background last week as the Trump administration publicly grappled with whether to prosecute the suspect in the New York terror attack -- a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. -- or do as the president and some Capitol Hill Republicans suggested, and send him to the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay.

The Justice Department announced criminal charges on Wednesday, a decision that resurrected some of the fiercest policy debates of the post-9/11 era.

The Hill's Katie Bo Williams has the rest here.

 

TRUMP CALLS ON N. KOREA TO 'MAKE A DEAL': Trump during a Tuesday news conference in South Korea called on North Korea to "make a deal" on its nuclear program, arguing it would be in Pyongyang's best interest.

"We have many things happening that we hope, we hope -- in fact, I'll go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use," Trump told a reporter who asked about diplomatic talks with North Korea.

"With that being said, I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that's good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world. I do see certain movement, yes. But let's see what happens."

Trump last month dismissed the prospect of negotiations with Pyongyang, writing on Twitter that Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonWatchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US Trump administration rigging the game, and your retirement fund could be the loser Haley’s exit sends shockwaves through Washington MORE was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Read more here.

 

SENATE ARMED SERVICES MOVES FORWARD ARMY PICK: The Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday moved forward four long-awaited Pentagon nominees, including Army secretary pick Mark Esper. 

The committee in a unanimous voice vote also approved Robert Wilkie to be Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Joseph Kernan to be undersecretary for intelligence, and Guy Roberts to be assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. 

The voice vote -- held in the middle of a Senate Armed Service Committee nomination hearing for additional Pentagon picks -- now moves the four nominees to the Senate floor. Esper and the three others could receive a final confirmation vote as early as this week as lawmakers look to quickly fill long-empty Pentagon positions.

Read more here.

 

FDA PUSHES BACK AGAINST PENTAGON APPROVING MEDICAL PRODUCTS: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency should retain control over medical device and drug approvals after a provision in the defense policy bill would give this power to the Defense Department for soldiers.

Gottlieb pointed to an alternative proposal he supports that, he said, would accelerate drug and device approvals at the FDA for the battlefield.

"That's important because we think we provide a level of oversight that helps ensure the safety of products, helps follow-up to make sure that if there are adverse events we're monitoring them, we're collecting that information," Gottlieb said at The Hill event Tuesday on opioid prevention sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, a trade group for pharmacy benefit managers. "So we think keeping it within the FDA context is the right thing."

At issue is a provision of the Senate's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) now going through conference committee. The measure would allow the Pentagon to sign off on unapproved medical devices and drugs to be used on military personnel for emergency use, which Politico first reported Monday. Approving drugs and devices is currently FDA's responsibility.

Rachel Roubein has more here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

 Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy will speak at the Association of the United Sates Army breakfast series at 7 a.m. at the association's General Gordon R. Sullivan Conference & Event Center in Arlington, Va.  

Two Foreign Affairs subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on the administration's plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan with testimony from State Department and USAID officials at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2172. 

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on the anti-narcotics trafficking Kingpin Act at 2 p.m. at Rayburn House Office Building 2172. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Kirstjen Nielsen to be Homeland Security secretary at 10 a.m. at Dirksen Senate Office Building 342. 

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: Trump forced to scrap DMZ visit due to bad weather

-- The Hill: House passes bill seeking to shield veterans from fraud

-- The Hill: Texas gunman once escaped from mental health facility while in Air Force

-- The Hill: Carter Page wanted Trump to take 2016 trip to Russia

-- The Hill: Trump voices 'great confidence' in Saudi Arabia amid royal purge

-- The Hill: Opinion: In Trump's world, it looks like America first, Middle East last

-- The Hill: Opinion: Terror within our shores is an unacceptable 'new normal'

--The Associated Press: Pentagon Has Known of crime reporting lapses for 20 years

 

Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com, and Ellen Mitchell, emitchell@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@Rebecca_H_K@EllenMitchell23