John M. Donnelly

In the House, Full Speed Ahead on Defense Spending

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry says he is “moving forward” to mark up a fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill the week before the Independence Day recess at about $705 billion.

But, the Texas Republican said, talks are ongoing among senior lawmakers and it is “possible” there could be “some adjustment” to that amount.

House Defense Panel Would Create Space Force

A House Armed Services panel intends to create a new fighting force called Space Corps within the Air Force to improve the U.S. military’s ability to address threats in space, according to a summary of the Strategic Forces panel’s forthcoming fiscal 2018 mark.

“There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding,” said a joint statement from Mike D. Rogers of Alabama and Jim Cooper of Tennessee, the panel’s chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively. “We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems. Thus, Congress has to step in.”

Marines Send Congress $3.2 Billion Wish List
Includes aircraft that did not make Trump’s defense budget plan

The Marine Corps has asked Congress for $3.2 billion to buy warplanes and other equipment that did not make President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 defense budget plan, according to a copy of the request obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, signed off on the “unfunded priorities list” and service officials sent it to lawmakers within the last week.

Lawmakers’ Safety Exemption for Old Steamboat Alarms Coast Guard
Fire risk to passengers high, according to document

The Senate voted overwhelmingly last month to permit a 90-year-old stern-wheel steamboat named the Delta Queen to travel the Mississippi River as an overnight cruise ship for up to 174 passengers.

Relaunching the now-idle boat would rekindle a connection to the region’s history and inject millions of tourist dollars and hundreds of jobs into states up and down the river, supporters of the measure said.

Congressional Audit Reports That Nuclear Bomb Budget Falls Short
Building new weapons will cost 35 percent more, take longer

Building new atomic bombs to replace the oldest such weapons in the U.S. arsenal will cost 35 percent more than the Energy Department has budgeted for the effort, and production will start two years late, according to an internal department estimate cited in a new congressional audit.

Critics have assailed the rising cost of the B61-12 bomb program for several years. The new internal estimate is likely to add to the scrutiny, at a time when modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal is fast becoming one of the biggest federal budget challenges of the next two decades.

Analysis: U.S. Military Options in North Korea — From Bad to Worse
Experts say chances of successful preemptive strike not great

War on the Korean peninsula may or may not be growing more likely. But it sure feels like it is.

Leaders in North Korea and the United States are rattling sabers at each other and conducting military exercises in the region. The entire Senate is set to visit the White House Wednesday for a briefing on the North Korean threat. The U.N. Security Council ambassadors came to the White House Monday and the United States is convening a special U.N. Security Council meeting to talk options on North Korea on Friday.

To Save Millions, Military Grounds Planes Worth Billions
Economics ‘upside down’, expert says

The Air Force has grounded a big portion of its newly refurbished, multibillion-dollar fleet of C-5 Galaxy transport planes, just to avoid spending the relatively small amount of money it costs to fly them. 

In order to save $60 million in annual operating costs, the Air Force has since fiscal 2015 placed eight of its top-of-the-line C-5s in “backup aircraft inventory” status, even though they are needed to ferry troops and gear around the world, said Gen. Carlton Everhart, the four-star chief of Air Mobility Command.

Stop-Loss an Option for Air Force to Keep Departing Pilots
‘If I can’t put warheads on foreheads, then [ISIS] is winning’

Faced with pilots leaving the Air Force in droves for the airlines, top generals are considering the option of forcing some to stay in the service against their will, a senior Air Force general told CQ Roll Call. 

Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of the Air Mobility Command, said in an interview that he and other senior Air Force generals will join Gen. David Goldfein, the service’s chief of staff, alongside representatives of the other armed services, in a meeting with U.S. airline executives May 18 at Andrews Air Force Base.

Armed Forces Say Yearlong CR Spells Danger
“This is lives and death and real consequences”

First posted March 28, 2017, 3:18 p.m. on CQ.com.

If Washington fails to send the Pentagon a new spending bill for the rest of this fiscal year, the U.S. military will take a major hit, according to new Defense Department reports to Congress obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Senior Democrats Want Audit of Nuclear Warhead Plan
Smith, Kaptur skeptical of administration plan

The two most senior House Democrats who oversee the U.S. nuclear arsenal want an audit of the cost of and justification for modernizing certain nuclear warheads.

Adam Smith of Washington, ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, questioned “the affordability and need” for so-called interoperable warheads in a letter to Gene Dodaro, who heads the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog.

Defense Supplemental Request Overstated By $5.2 Billion
Pentagon asks for money, twice

The Trump administration wants Congress to add $30 billion to its fiscal 2017 Defense spending bill, but about $5.2 billion of the proposed addition is already in the bill, according to a Senate committee.

CQ Roll Call disclosed on March 20 that the administration’s $30 billion supplemental request for the Pentagon contained more than $3 billion in ship and aircraft programs that were already in the House-Senate agreement (HR 1301) that the House passed earlier this month and that awaits Senate action.

Full-Year CR Threatens Military Training, Hawks Say
Thornberry: “All but one deploying Army unit will cease training after July 15th”

The U.S. armed forces will see training severely curtailed if the continuing resolution funding the federal government is extended for the rest of the fiscal year, a leading lawmaker warned Wednesday.

Texas Republican Mac Thornberry, chairman of House Armed Services, said at a press breakfast that he has asked the military services what the effect would be of a full-year CR. He said he had not heard from all of them but offered a few startling examples.

$30 Billion Defense Supplemental Duplicates Spending
Pentagon might not need full request from Trump

The Pentagon may not really need the full $30 billion President Donald Trump requested last week for the current fiscal year.

That’s because Congress is already poised to provide a significant portion of the $30 billion in the fiscal 2017 Defense spending bill that the House passed on March 8. So that portion of the supplemental is redundant, congressional and Pentagon officials confirmed to CQ Roll Call.

Hill Wants Answers on Russia’s Fielding of New Missiles
Deployment by Moscow violates a longstanding arms control treaty

A top U.S. military official confirmed Wednesday that Russia has deployed a new type of cruise missile that violates a longstanding arms control accord. 

The Trump administration is looking to respond, he said. And Congress wants to know how.

Air Force‘s Top General Emphasizes Need for Apolitical Military

The Air Force’s top general told reporters Tuesday that wars should be fought as humanely as possible and the military is apolitical — statements that, in tone if not substance, are at odds with the president’s.

Gen. David Goldfein, the service’s chief of staff since last July, did not directly say he takes issue with President Donald Trump. And the four-star general explicitly said that he was not referring particularly to Trump’s recent statements contending that the U.S. military supported his candidacy in the election.

Pentagon Panel Urges Trump Team to Expand Nuclear Options
Report suggests ‘tailored nuclear option for limited use’

A blue-ribbon Pentagon panel has urged the Trump administration to make the U.S. arsenal more capable of “limited” atomic war.

The Defense Science Board, in an unpublished December report obtained by CQ Roll Call, urges the president to consider altering existing and planned U.S. armaments to achieve a greater number of lower-yield weapons that could provide a “tailored nuclear option for limited use.”

Mick Mulvaney's Budget Stance on Defense Could Get Awkward
Standoff with McCain hints at deep conflict over spending

If Republicans who favor more Pentagon spending help confirm President Donald Trump's nominee for budget director, they will be holding their noses when they do it.

Among GOP lawmakers who want to increase funding for defense, reservations run deep about Rep. Mick Mulvaney to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In Break from Trump, Mattis Pushes for Tough Stance on Russia

James Mattis, Donald Trump’s choice for Defense secretary, advocated several shifts in U.S. national security policy in his confirmation hearing Thursday, including a much tougher stance on Russia than the president-elect has articulated.

On several topics during his Senate Armed Services testimony, the retired Marine Corps four-star general differed in substance or tone from positions Trump took in the campaign. Unless Trump or Mattis changes his view, the contrasts could lead to tensions between the White House and the Pentagon.

Panel Sets Vote on Waiving Waiting Period for Mattis

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to vote this week on whether to exempt Donald Trump’s Defense secretary nominee from the standard waiting period for former military officers chosen to run the Pentagon.

The committee is expected to vote Jan. 12 to approve legislation that would permit the nominee, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, to be confirmed by the Senate under expedited procedures.

Atomic Arsenal Costs Ballooning by Billions of Dollars

America’s nuclear arsenal is getting billions of dollars more expensive with each passing year, the Obama administration said in a recent report to Congress obtained by CQ.

The report shows how nuclear weapons costs are beginning to crest as the Pentagon and the Energy Department move into a $1 trillion modernization effort over the next three decades. It is the biggest looming issue in the defense budget.