Executive and LEGISLATIVE Branch ACTIVITY
Last week, the Russian Government acted on Secretary of State John Kerry’s Monday, September 9 suggestion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avert a U.S. strike if he were to turn over all chemical weapon stockpiles to international control. President Assad said he would accept the Russian four-point plan to turn over his chemical weapon stockpiles to international control and he praised his Russian ally for the diplomatic solution. On Thursday, September 12, and in furtherance of the Russian plan, President Assad petitioned the United Nations to allow Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In light of the Russian plan and facing an uphill battle to garner Congressional support for the Senate authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), President Barack Obama asked Congress to postpone its vote for an AUMF resolution. This, he said, would provide time for the United States to work with the U.N. Security Council on a Security Council resolution requiring Syria give up its chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control. After three days of negotiations, Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced an agreement was reached last Saturday in Geneva on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons. The framework also includes a provision to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions — short of military action — if President Assad fails to comply.
President Obama addressed the nation on Syria last Tuesday, September 10, describing the civil war conflict and saying the August 21 chemical weapons attack “profoundly” changed the situation. He reiterated the U.S. position that the Assad regime was the perpetrator of the attack. While President Obama acknowledged that the United States is “not the world’s policeman,” he also highlighted
“the United States has been the anchor of global security”
for nearly seven decades. The President has ordered the U.S. military to maintain its current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails.
Today, the U.N. inspection team sent to Syria to determine whether chemical weapons were used in the August 21 attack is expected to report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on its preliminary findings.
Last week, the House released a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government until December 15, after the end of FY 2013 on September 30. The stopgap measure would provide $518 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, which is $19.9 billion more than the $498.1 billion allowed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. That $19.9 billion will have to be sequestered from the Pentagon’s budget in calendar year 2014. This week, the House Armed Services will further examine the impact of sequestration on the Defense Department (see This Week’s Hearings section below).
A political impasse among House Republicans on efforts to block funding for “Obamacare” emerged the day after the CR was released, effectively blocking the CR from going to the House floor. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) indicated last Thursday, September 12, that the House recess planned for next week may need to be canceled. President Obama has expressed his preference for a “clean” CR.
Last week, the Pentagon named five Defense Department sites that could fulfill the congressional mandate to base new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) interceptors. The five potential locations are:
(1) Fort Drum in New York;
(2) Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont;
(3) Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE Training Area in Maine;
(4) Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio; and
(5) Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.
Lawmakers from those states are expected to intensify their lobbying efforts for the third ICBM interceptor site.
AFRICOM Headquarter Location
Early last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that examined the operational and cost-saving benefits of relocating U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to the United States from Stuttgart, Germany. The GAO report estimates an annual $65 million could be saved in a U.S. relocation of the command, and approximately 4,500 jobs could be created with approximately $450 million being injected into a regional economy. U.S. states advocating for hosting AFRICOM include Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Wednesday, September 18: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Planning for Sequestration in FY 2014 and Perspectives of the Military Services on the Strategic Choices and Management Review.”
- Thursday, September 19: The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider the following nominations: Deborah Lee James to be Secretary of the Air Force; Jessica Garfola Wright to be Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Frank Klotz to be Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security; Marcel Lettre II to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Kevin Ohlson to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Services.
- Thursday, September 19: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The U.S. Presence in Afghanistan Post-2014: Views of Outside Experts.”
- Thursday, September 19: The House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The Defense Department’s Posture for September 11, 2013: What are the Lessons of Benghazi?”
- Friday, September 20: The House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Resetting the Force for the Future: Risks of Sequestration.”