Legislative Branch Activity
Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he “strongly” opposed the $52 billion sequester cuts to the Defense Department’s FY 2014 Budget. He particularly cited risks to U.S. military readiness and technological superiority. Secretary Hagel noted the adverse effects would occur “even if Congress provides flexibility in administering budget cuts and sequestration.”
Last week the media reported House Republicans may modify their current policy of considering appropriations bills under “open rules” – or unlimited amendments – in favor of “structured rule,” which limits the number of allowed amendments. The House plans to bring the FY 2014 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2397) to the floor this week under a closed rule by which amendments will be limited to those approved by the House Rules Committee. Committee Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) said, “While this is not the traditional process for this bill, there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process.”
Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) suggested last week he will block all FY 2014 appropriations bills. The Senator wants all the bills to adhere to the budget caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Senate Democrats do not have the necessary votes to overcome the Republican objections. The Republican bloc increases the likelihood a Continuing Resolution rather than a stand-alone appropriations bill will be the outcome for the Defense Department.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
In a procedural move, the House FY 2014 NDAA bill (H.R. 1960) has been placed on the Senate calendar. Floor debate, however, for the Senate’s FY 2014 NDAA bill (S. 1197) is unlikely before Congress returns from its summer recess in September.
Last week, the Obama Administration dealt with the ramifications connected to the Egyptian military’s intervention on July 3 that led to the removal of Mohamed Morsi as the President of Egypt. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Department officials confirmed last week the administration will proceed with the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. The four jets are part of a 20-plane package approved three years ago, and delivery is expected to occur in the next few weeks.
Last week, U.S. lawmakers on the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate Intelligence Committees blocked the Administration’s mid-June authorization of military aid to the Syrian opposition, citing the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist groups, such as the al-Nusra Front. Fresh off of a visit to the Middle East, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) urged the administration to target Syrian “airfields, airplanes and massed military.” The Chairman, however, acknowledged U.S. citizens remain “dubious” about any new U.S. military actions abroad.
Early last week the media reported President Obama is increasingly considering a “zero option” for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing last week, Senators sought clarity on the administration’s long-term policy goals for Afghanistan. While White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed a “zero option” has always been on the table, U.S. Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins testified before the SFRC that he did not think it was likely the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be zero.
In response to contract employee Edward Snowden’s disclosures of classified information, last week a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement (SCORE) Act (S.1276) to improve the security clearance background check processes for government employees and contractors.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, July 16: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the “Situation in Syria.”
- Tuesday, July 16: The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight will hold a hearing on “Implementation of Wartime Contracting Reforms.”
- Tuesday, July 16: Following an Executive Session, the Senate Banking Committee will hold an open hearing on “Oversight of the Defense Production Act Issues and Opportunities for Reauthorization.”
- Wednesday, July 17: The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the “Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request for the Missile Defense Agency.”
- Wednesday, July 17: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold an oversight hearing on “Major Threats Facing Navy Forces.”
- Wednesday, July 17: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold an oversight hearing on “Revisions to the Nuclear Employment Strategy.”
- Wednesday, July 17: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The Security Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic – Implications for U.S. National Security and U.S. Policy Options.”
- Thursday, July 18: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a nominations hearing to consider the nominations of General Martin E. Dempsey and Admiral James A. Winnefeld.