John M. Donnelly

Lawmakers spar big-time on behalf of rocket companies
Billions of dollars in business, and the future of national security, are at stake in fight over developing a new generation of rockets

More than two-dozen House members have thrown the latest punch in a bare-knuckled fight that pits competing U.S. rocket manufacturers and their allies on Capitol Hill against one another.

A bipartisan group of 28 House members urged Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson in an April 12 letter not to alter the service’s blueprint for developing a new generation of rockets to lift U.S. military and spy satellites into orbit. But plenty of other lawmakers have pushed for several changes.

Navy routinely buys defective ships
Former shipbuilding executive: “There’s an old adage: ‘A ship so nice, we built it twice’”

For the U.S. Navy, buying warships that are defective, unfinished or both has become the norm.

The habit is expensive, dangerous and leaves overworked sailors to deal with faulty ships in need of repair from day one — yet it has escaped sufficient scrutiny in Washington.

Navy spends epically on shoddy ships
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 144

For the U.S. Navy, buying warships that are defective, unfinished or both has become the norm. The habit is expensive, dangerous and leaves overworked sailors to deal with faulty ships in need of repair from day one. Yet, the practice has escaped sufficient scrutiny in Washington even though taxpayers are on the hook for repeated repairs, reports CQ senior writer John M. Donnelly. Most new ships, he says, go to sea with one or more major defects — even after months of repair work and test...
Spectrum auction could boot weather forecasting back to the 1970s, lawmakers warn
Appropriators call for delay of auction set for Thursday

Senior House members, citing a potential threat to the safety of millions of people, urgently asked a federal agency Wednesday to delay an auction of radio frequency spectrum that is slated to occur Thursday.

If that spectrum is used for 5G wireless communications, as planned, it could interfere with government satellites’ ability to collect data in a nearby band — information on which accurate weather forecasts hinge, three House Appropriations subcommittee chairmen said in a letter obtained by Roll Call.

After bitter fight, defense budget will stay high
The hard-fought outcome is likely to be a bipartisan accord keeping defense spending at historically high levels

ANALYSIS — President Donald Trump’s defense budget request is sparking partisan discord that will last for months, but the hard-fought outcome is likely to be a bipartisan accord to keep defense spending at its historically high level.

The conflict is real. A House controlled by Democrats will not easily swallow Trump’s proposal to slash spending on nondefense programs by 9 percent at the same time as he wants a nearly 5 percent increase in defense spending. Trump’s $750 billion request for the Pentagon and other defense accounts marks one of the biggest peacetime defense budgets since World War II, even adjusting for inflation.

U.S. commander warns of risks from Trump’s troop withdrawal
Votel’s testimony clashes with recent remarks by the president, who has celebrated the complete defeat of the Islamic State

The U.S. commander in the Middle East warned lawmakers Thursday about the risks of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw American forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

The Islamic State terrorist group is down to less than one square mile of territory in Iraq and Syria, but the group has made a “calculated decision” to lay low and remains a dangerous threat, Army Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.

Breaking a trust to build the wall
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 100

CQ’s award-winning defense reporter John M. Donnelly revealed that a Pentagon fund that President Donald Trump wants to use to pay for his wall is nearly depleted, forcing him to look elsewhere in the Pentagon budget for the money. Trump appears poised to break tradition and bypass Congress in this money transfer, and Donnelly says that “would tear a hole in the fabric of cooperation between the White House and the Congress.”

Pentagon harbors culture of revenge against whistleblowers
‘Your chances of avoiding professional suicide are akin to winning the lottery,’ one advocate says

After an Army master sergeant witnessed sexual harassment and other misconduct in the ranks in 2014 and reported it to internal Defense Department authorities, the soldier’s supervisors retaliated. They suspended the whistleblower’s security clearance, issued a derogatory performance evaluation and put a written reprimand in the soldier’s file, among other reprisals.

Although the Pentagon inspector general’s office proved last year that the Army master sergeant was wrongly punished and the underlying allegations were true, the officials who retaliated had yet to face consequences. And it is not yet clear whether the damage they did to the soldier’s record has been fixed.

A reporter’s homage to government auditors — unsung heroes of transparency
America needs information that presents an objective version of reality

OPINION — Whistle-blowers and internal documents are the lifeblood of journalism.

Without such sources, the full story of what’s happening in our country can’t come out.

Congress could block big chunk of Trump’s emergency wall money
Full funds likely to be unavailable from the sources president has identified

More than one-third of the money President Donald Trump wants to redirect from other federal programs to build a border barrier is likely to be unavailable from the sources he has identified.

As a result, it may be difficult for the president to circumvent Congress, even if a resolution disapproving of his “emergency” moves is never enacted.

Trump Ignites New Budget Fights by Targeting Pentagon Programs
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 99

 

CQ defense reporter John M. Donnelly spells out how President Donald Trump's emergency action to raid Pentagon accounts to pay for a border wall could affect military facilities and programs already stretched thin.

Inhofe open to ‘exaggerated’ war budget
Armed Services chairman begrudgingly supports Trump’s gambit, setting the tone for other Republicans

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told reporters Tuesday he would begrudgingly support a huge increase in the Pentagon’s war budget for programs unconnected to warfare if that is necessary to bankroll another boost to defense spending.

Oklahoma Republican James M. Inhofe said $750 billion is needed for national defense in fiscal 2020, compared to $716 billion in fiscal 2019. How that hike is achieved, he said, is of secondary importance.

Congress has had it up to here with agencies not taking its spending advice
Departments have not implemented proposals that could save $87 billion, and now they will have to explain why

Congress is increasingly trying to force federal departments, especially the Pentagon, to quit disregarding audit recommendations on how to get more bang for billions of dollars in taxpayer bucks.

Starting next year, in fact, federal agencies will have to explain to Congress why they are letting thousands of good ideas gather dust.

Trump sounds familiar notes on defense in State of the Union
The only news was the announcement of a date and location of his second summit with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump stressed his principal defense positions in his State of the Union address Tuesday, without providing new details about planned troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan.

The only news was announcement of the date and location of his second summit with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un — on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam. Trump said he believed that if he had not been elected, the United States would “right now” be fighting a “major war” with North Korea that might have killed millions.

Concerns pile up in Senate over Trump’s troop withdrawal
Lawmakers in both parties voice worries about slaughter, getting it right, as top general says he was ‘not consulted’

Senate Armed Services members from both parties worried aloud at a hearing Tuesday that looming U.S. troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan could risk squandering years of costly effort.

The senators expressions of concern came a day after the Senate voted 70-26 to approve a resolution that would oppose a “precipitous” withdrawal from Syria or Afghanistan. And it came on the same day as President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address, which is expected to include a call to all but terminate America’s nearly two decades of post-9/11 wars.

ISIS strong, could get stronger if U.S. pulls out of Syria, Pentagon report warns
The ISIS command organization is intact and its fighters are “battle-hardened,” the report said

As President Donald Trump prepares to reaffirm in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address both victory over the Islamic State and a call for withdrawing American troops from foreign battlefields, a new Pentagon report says the terrorist group is still strong and would get stronger once U.S. troops leave Syria.

A U.S.-led coalition has eliminated some 99 percent of the territory in Syria and Iraq that the Islamic State, or ISIS, once claimed as its so-called caliphate.

Parties are swapping war positions in Trump era
Plenty of members of both parties are deviating from the new script — and the battle lines are still taking shape

ANALYSIS — Under the presidency of Donald Trump, America’s political parties have scrambled their traditional positions on war and peace.

The GOP has spent the bulk of the last 17 years arguing in favor of launching and then continuing overseas wars. But now some Republicans in Washington — and most Republicans in the country at large — back Trump’s plan to withdraw most U.S. troops from far-flung battlefields.

Why Republicans bucked Trump on Afghanistan and Syria
Podcast, Episode 138

CQ senior defense writer John M. Donnelly and Michael Rubin, a former Middle East adviser in the George W. Bush administration who’s now a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, discuss the implications of President Donald Trump’s moves to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Syria and the Republican-led backlash in Congress. 

 

McConnell amendment pits GOP security establishment against Trump
The amendment effectively opposes Trump’s troop withdrawal plans from overseas terrorism fights

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set the stage for what could become a Senate rebuke of President Donald Trump’s stewardship of America’s wars.

The action is set to begin with a procedural vote Thursday afternoon on an amendment by the Kentucky Republican that would effectively oppose Trump’s plans to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from their long-running overseas fight against terrorism.

Lots of questions, but few answers at hearing on troops’ border deployment
First House Armed Services Committee hearing probes rationale, effects of active duty mission

The first House Armed Services hearing of the new Congress, an examination of the deployment of thousands of troops to America’s southern border, did not answer fundamental questions about the mission, now in its third month.

Most lawmakers neglected to adequately press defense officials on the contentious deployment on Tuesday, and Pentagon witnesses were unable or unwilling to answer many of the questions they got.