Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight – House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost $45B in 2018

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

THE TOPLINE: House Republicans passed a spending package on Tuesday night that pairs a full year of defense funding with a temporary patch for the rest of the government, even as Senate leaders pursue a different plan to avoid a shutdown when funding runs dry on Thursday.

The defense-first strategy from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was designed to win over support from conservative hard-liners and defense hawks in the House GOP conference who were threatening to oppose the stopgap bill — the fifth temporary funding patch since September.

The continuing resolution (CR), which passed the House 245-182, would fund the Defense Department for the rest of fiscal 2018 and keep the rest of the government’s lights on until March 23. It also includes two years of funding for community health centers and extends several expiring health care programs.

But the defense-CR package is unlikely to fly in the Senate, meaning senators will need to rewrite the stopgap measure and “ping-pong” it back to the House.

Further squeezing the debate is that House Democrats are scheduled to leave Wednesday morning for a three-day annual retreat in Cambridge, Md., though buses are supposed to be on standby in case lawmakers need to return to Washington to vote on whatever measure the Senate sends back to the House.

The Hill’s Melanie Zanona has more on the House track here.


MEANWHILE… OVER IN THE SENATE: Senate leaders on Tuesday said they are close to a two-year budget deal that could avert a government shutdown and set up a debate on immigration reform next week.

The deal would set spending levels for fiscal 2018 and 2019 and avoid the prospect of a second government shutdown Thursday when a stopgap spending measure expires.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) touted their progress after meeting in McConnell’s office Tuesday morning.

“I’m optimistic that very soon we’ll be able to reach an agreement,” McConnell told reporters, predicting that another shutdown this week is very unlikely.

Schumer said he also expected a deal soon that would set higher spending levels for defense and nondefense programs.

“I’m very pleased to report my meeting with Leader McConnell went very well. We’re making real progress on a spending deal that would increase the caps for both military and middle-class priorities on the domestic side that my colleagues have been fighting for.”


The defense numbers… In the emerging Senate deal, defense spending would be raised more than nondefense spending, breaking the dollar-for-dollar link that Democrats have insisted upon. Lawmakers said the defense-spending budget cap for 2018 likely would be hiked by $80 billion, while the nondefense cap would be hiked by $63 billion.

While this would be a concession from Democrats, they also agreed to a deal last spring that broke the dollar-for-dollar link. And Democrats could also get money for community health centers and disaster relief as part of the stopgap, though some of those details are still under negotiation.

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton and Melanie Zanona with the latest on the Senate side.


PENTAGON GROWS IMPATIENT: Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday scorched Congress for its budget dysfunction that has left the Pentagon operating under stopgap spending for a quarter of the fiscal year.

Mattis made the comment while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the recently released National Defense Strategy and nuclear posture review.

“Congress mandated, rightfully mandated this National Defense Strategy — the first one in a decade — then shut down the government the day of its release. Today, we are again operating under a disruptive continuing resolution,” Mattis said in his opening statement.

“I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time because no strategy can survive, as you pointed out, chairman, without the funding necessary to resource it.”

Mattis and other defense officials have long lamented the damaging effects of stopgap spending measures known as continuing resolutions (CRs). But his words Tuesday were particularly pointed.

The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel has the rest here.


PENTAGON PLANNING MILITARY PARADE FOR TRUMP: President Trump has asked the Pentagon to explore holding “a celebration” for Americans to show their appreciation for the armed forces, the White House said, amid reports that military leaders have begun planning a military parade at his request.

Trump repeatedly has expressed an interest in holding a display of America’s military might and upped his calls for a parade after witnessing the Bastille Day celebrations on a trip to France last summer.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that at a recent meeting between Trump and top military officials, Trump’s wishes were “suddenly heard as a presidential directive.”

“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” one military official told the Post on the condition of anonymity. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

A White House official told the Post that the planning was still in the “brainstorming” stages, and that there is “no meat on the bones” as of yet. 

“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday night.

The Hill’s Avery Anapol has the recap.


MATTIS DEFENDS NUKE POLICY: Also during his hearing, Mattis defended the Trump administration’s nuclear weapons policy against charges it sidelines arms control and lowers the threshold for using the weapons.

“I recently received a letter from senators concerned that the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review would ‘undermine decades of U.S. leadership on efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons,’ ” Mattis said in his first public remarks on the Nuclear Posture Review since the Pentagon released it Friday afternoon. 

“To the contrary, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms the mutually reinforcing role of nuclear deterrence in a complex and dynamic security environment while underscoring continued U.S. commitment to nonproliferation, counter-nuclear terrorism and arms control.”

Read more on Mattis’ comments here.


PENTAGON: WAR IN AFGHANISTAN WILL COST $45B in 2018: The Defense Department’s top Asia official on Tuesday told Senate lawmakers that the war in Afghanistan will cost $45 billion this year.

Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said the figure includes roughly $13 billion for U.S. forces in the country, $5 billion for Afghan forces, $780 million for economic aid and the rest for logistical support.

Schriver was speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in its first hearing on the war since President Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy six months ago. The Pentagon official could not give a cost estimate for the new strategy.

Lawmakers were critical of the 2018 costs, and questioned whether the administration’s plan will force the Taliban to the table for peace talks and end the war, now in its 17th year.

Trump himself seemed to undercut that basic tenet if his strategy last month when he quashed the possibility of negotiating with the terrorist group. 

“So there’s no talking to the Taliban. We don’t want to talk to the Taliban. We’re going to finish what we have to finish,” Trump said, days after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bombing that killed roughly 100 people in Kabul.

More on that hearing here.


On the other side of the Capitol, lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee were also critical of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a longtime critic of the war in Afghanistan, on Tuesday demanded Defense Secretary James Mattis explain why U.S. troops are still shedding “blood for pedophiles.”

Read the rest of his comments here.


The hearing both come the same day the U.S. military opened a new front in its air war in Afghanistan, announcing a series of airstrikes in the northern part of the country.

Read about that here.


US COULD REINSTATE SECURITY AID IF PAKISTAN TAKES ‘DECISIVE’ STEPS: The State Department’s second in command said Tuesday that the United States could restore security assistance to Pakistan if the nation takes “decisive and sustained” actions against terrorist groups in the country.

“We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction,” Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said in prepared remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Pentagon last month said it was suspending at least $900 million in security assistance for Pakistan, including military equipment deliveries, transfers of security-related funds and reimbursements for counterterrorism operations.

The hold was due to Pakistan’s alleged failure to combat terrorist networks within its borders, including the Afghan Taliban and its Haqqani network. The latter claimed responsibility for a bombing at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul last month.

 Read the rest here.


SPACEX LAUNCHES WORLDS MOST POWERFUL ROCKET: SpaceX, the private space company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, successfully launched the most powerful commercial rocket in the world on Tuesday.

The Falcon Heavy, launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, took off with double the power of the world’s next most powerful rocket, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy.

ULA, a Lockheed-Martin and Boeing joint venture, is SpaceX’s biggest rival.

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, told reporters on Monday that the Falcon Heavy operates at one-third the cost of the Delta IV Heavy, making it the top contender among available heavy-lift rockets.

The Falcon Heavy, which is comprised of three Falcon 9 rockets, is also the first rocket of its power to be launched by a private company rather than the U.S. government.

Read about that here.



The vice chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force and the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps will testify before a House Armed Services subcommittee on preventing misconduct among senior leaders and promoting accountability at 9 a.m. at Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. http://bit.ly/21Dh7Vr

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) will speak on the U.S.-Ukraine cybersecurity partnership at 10 a.m. at George Washington University in Washington. http://conta.cc/2BQaQjb

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Pentagon’s role in countering weapons of mass destruction with testimony from government officials at 2:30 p.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 232A. http://bit.ly/2DVM7LT

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will consider pending legislation at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 418. http://bit.ly/2s1jag5

Another Senate Armed Services subpanel will hear from Army officials on modernization of their branch at 3:30 p.m. at Russell 222. http://bit.ly/2DOcyq0



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— Defense News: House GOP’s six-week continuing resolution offers military, health care funding


Tags Chuck Schumer Donald Trump James Mattis Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Walter Jones

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