John M. Donnelly

Safety Experts: Some F-35 Ejections Pose ‘Serious’ Death Risk
Degree of risk is at issue in Pentagon

The F-35 fighter jets’ flawed ejection seats, which Air Force officials said in May had been fixed, still pose a “serious” risk that will probably injure or kill nearly two dozen pilots, according to an internal Air Force safety report that service officials withheld from the press.

The F-35 Joint Program Office — which runs the $406.5 billion initiative, the most expensive weapons program in history — has declined to try to save those lives by conducting less than a year’s worth of additional testing that would cost a relatively paltry few million dollars, the report shows.

McCaskill Pushes Pentagon for Answers on Improper Payments

Sen. Claire McCaskill wants some answers from Defense Secretary James Mattis on the Pentagon’s efforts to curb so-called improper payments to contractors and individuals.

McCaskill sent Mattis a letter Wednesday seeking an update on reports of inadequate Pentagon compliance with a law that mandates monitoring overpayments and underpayments, which totaled $1.2 trillion across the federal government between 2003 and 2016, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Analysis: Why Won't Trump Discuss Troop Numbers?

In a speech to the nation on Aug. 21, President Donald Trump issued a clarion call on Afghanistan, effectively asking Americans to indefinitely extend their longest war at untold additional cost in lives and money. But he declined to say how many of America’s sons and daughters he plans to deploy there.

Trump did not quantify the military deployment even though it has been widely reported that he has already authorized the Pentagon to augment its nearly 8,500 strong force in Afghanistan with almost 4,000 additional service members. The first of the extra troops could arrive within days or weeks, and those numbers could grow depending on conditions in Afghanistan, officials have said.

Members of Trump’s Infrastructure Panel Resign in Protest
Administration not responsive to sound advice, letter says

More than a quarter of a blue-ribbon panel of experts that advises President Donald Trump on infrastructure security submitted a joint resignation letter to him Monday because, they wrote, his actions jeopardize U.S. security and “undermine” America’s “moral infrastructure.”

Seven members of the 27-person National Infrastructure Advisory Council, mostly Democrats, are stepping down, said Cristin Dorgelo, one of the resigning members, in an email to CQ Roll Call. Dorgelo, a senior counselor at Mission Partners LLC, was formerly chief of staff for President Barack Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Defense to Get Historically High Share of Research Budget
Congress likely to resist cuts to nondefense R&D programs

The Pentagon and other security agencies’ outsize consumption of federal research money would grow further under Republican plans, while nondefense research spending would drop, sometimes dramatically, a new congressional report shows.

The Defense Department’s research and development budget would consume 56 percent of the federal R&D total in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, according to the Congressional Research Service report. That’s an 18 percent increase above the fiscal 2016 enacted level. When military research at the National Nuclear Security Administration and other agencies is included, the defense share of the federal research budget is closer to 61 percent.

Trump’s Tweet on Transgender Service Members Roils Congress
McCain: Americans who serve should be treated as patriots

President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday morning on Twitter that he will bar transgender people from serving in the military brings to a boil a previously simmering congressional debate.

Critics of Trump’s proposal have already vowed to fight back hard, and the battle will be joined promptly. It will start in the next 24 hours or so during House debate on security spending legislation.

War Waste in the Crosshairs

Three top U.S. auditors briefed a House Armed Services panel Tuesday on discomfiting reports of uncontrolled spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reports had all been posted online earlier this year. But the effect of presenting them in a single hearing was striking.

First, the Defense Department had spent as much as $28 million since 2008 buying “unnecessary, untested and costly” uniforms for Afghan security forces, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko told the Oversight and Investigations panel.

Analysis: Senators Writing Placeholder Defense Money Bill
Figure will be lower than House, in prelude to likely deal

Senate appropriators’ forthcoming Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2018, which will contain tens of billions of dollars less than the House’s measure, should be taken seriously, but not literally.

The Senate spending panel’s defense funding proposal is likely to grow, assuming — as is likely — that an agreement to slightly raise the budget caps is reached, as it has been for every year since the caps called for by the sequester were enacted in 2011.

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.