Executive and Legislative Branch Activity

Defense Authorization, Budget And the Sequester

The Fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (S.1197) is expected to come to the floor on Wednesday, November 13. The Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 967) – a bill to address military sexual assaults that has 46 Senators supporting it – is expected to be offered as an amendment to the NDAA. Amendments concerning Iran sanctions, National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance activities, Guantánamo Detention Center detainee transfers as well as nondefense policy issues can be expected also.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the Pentagon’s spending habits during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week that focused on the impact of the sequester on defense programs.  He was joined by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who advocated for both Congress and the Defense Department to be more efficient in their spending priorities. Sen. Chambliss said he is awaiting a list of unwanted programs from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including criticizing Congress’ addition of money for upgrading Abrams tanks that the Army did not request.

The Budget Conference Committee will convene for the second time this Wednesday.

Intelligence Programs, Cybersecurity and Surveillance

The Senate Intelligence Committee released and approved by a vote of 13-2 its draft measure last week to authorize spending for U.S. intelligence programs. The Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2014 includes a provision that would address security clearances concerns. The bill would make the Director and Inspector General of the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office subject to presidential appointment and senate confirmation. Another provision in the bill would require public disclosure of deaths and injuries caused by U.S. drone strikes. The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release cybersecurity legislation shortly that would promote increased information sharing between companies and the government.

Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Charles McCullough III, responded last week to a September letter sent from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and nine other lawmakers saying his office could not undertake a review of the NSA’s data collection programs. He cited resource constraints. Chairman Leahy is expected to hold a full committee hearing on November 20 to examine the surveillance programs. This Wednesday, November 13, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law will hold a hearing on surveillance transparency.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, November 13: The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law will hold a hearing titled “The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.”