Patrick Kelley

DHS Detects Elections Systems Scanning
Could be hackers looking for vulnerabilities, but ‘run-of-the-mill’

Homeland Security officials at the Washington elections command post said they had detected some “run-of-the-mill” scanning of elections systems a little past noon on Election Day.

Scanning of systems is something many hackers try to do routinely to search for vulnerabilities. In physical terms, scanning is the equivalent of a burglar walking through a neighborhood to see if any of the houses are unlocked.

Midterm Elections Hold Ultimate Verdict on Kavanaugh
McConnell asserts confirmation process driving up Republican enthusiasm

Even before Saturday’s Senate vote made Brett Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice, senators from both parties said voters soon would deliver the final verdict on President Donald Trump’s divisive appointment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Roll Call a month ahead of Election Day, said the contentious debate about the confirmation process was driving up base enthusiasm for the 2018 midterm elections.

Daines Now Says He Will be Back in D.C. for Kavanaugh Vote If Needed
Republican senator is scheduled to be in Montana this weekend for his daughter’s wedding

Republican Sen. Steve Daines sounded optimistic about getting back to D.C. for a final vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination a day after saying he wouldn’t be around if the vote came Saturday.

Daines told The Associated Press on Thursday that he would be in Montana for his daughter’s wedding, whether the vote was held then or not.

Latest Kavanaugh Allegations Send Senate Into Chaos
Reactions vary from unwillingness to engage to angry defiance from GOP

As the latest allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh swept through the Capitol, the Senate Judiciary Committee said it was reviewing the claims, even on the eve of a historic hearing on which the fate of his confirmation hangs.

Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley told a horde of reporters that staff attorneys are reviewing the latest allegations, outlined in a graphic declaration sent to the panel from Julie Swetnick, who says Kavanaugh was present while she was gang raped at a high school party in 1982.

Congress Again Blocks F-35 Transfers to Turkey
Turkish president rebuffed Trump request to release detained American pastor

Congress is poised to pass legislation that will block the transfer of the F-35 stealth fighter to Turkey, a NATO ally that helps produce the jet, as Turkey moves forward with plans to purchase Russian-made missile defense systems and refuses to release a detained U.S. pastor.

A provision in the fiscal 2019 Defense spending bill would withhold any funds from being used to deliver the jets to Turkey until the secretaries of State and Defense send Congress a comprehensive report on the U.S.-Turkish military and diplomatic relationships. The provision essentially matches language in the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill, which became law earlier this year.    

Inhofe Armed Services Leadership to Depart Drastically From McCain’s
Late Arizona senator rankled president and Pentagon, Inhofe sympathetic to both

With John McCain’s death Saturday, the Senate Armed Services gavel will almost certainly pass to James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, marking a significant change in leadership style and priorities for the powerful panel.

While the boisterous McCain was a hard-charging critic of both the Pentagon and the commander in chief, the more subdued Inhofe is, in many ways, the opposite.

Inhofe Armed Services Leadership to Depart Drastically From McCain’s
Late Arizona senator rankled president and Pentagon, Inhofe sympathetic to both

With John McCain’s death Saturday, the Senate Armed Services gavel will almost certainly pass to James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, marking a significant change in leadership style and priorities for the powerful panel.

While the boisterous McCain was a hard-charging critic of both the Pentagon and the commander in chief, the more subdued Inhofe is, in many ways, the opposite.

Don’t Let China Snag Another Foreign Port, Senators Warn
Possible Chinese military moves in Pakistan latest worry for lawmakers

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Trump administration to counter China’s economic expansion as the lawmakers fear that Beijing plans to leverage its foreign investments and lending for infrastructure projects into strategic military footholds.

Georgia Republican David Perdue, along with 15 other senators, raised the issue in a Friday letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Senate Sends Trump a Defense Authorization That Could Rein In His Parade
Measure boosts troop size, adds to arsenal, bans the Pentagon from sapping deployable forces for parade

The Senate on Wednesday adopted the conference report for the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill, sending the massive Pentagon policy bill to the White House one day earlier than expected.

The measure easily cleared the Senate on a 87-10 vote, marking the 58th straight year that Congress has passed the Pentagon policy bill.

Congress to Terror Groups: Hands Off Our Weapons
Defense policy bill provision aims to prohibit Pentagon from arming terror groups

If terror groups in the Middle East want more weapons to aid their fight against the U.S. military and its allies in the region, they won’t get them from the Pentagon.

It may seem obvious that the Defense Department wouldn’t arm its enemies, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from including a provision in the final fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill that forbids the U.S. military from assisting three terror organizations with a presence in Syria.

Stealth Fighter Sale to Turkey Risks Russian Interference
Senators turn to spending bill, NDAA in bid to block purchase

The United States’ plans to sell the stealthy F-35 jet to a key NATO ally could allow Russia to study the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history like a lab sample — a threat that has drawn the attention of several senators intent on protecting the pricey plane.

Turkey is just one of many NATO members that plans to buy the American-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but it is the only country in the alliance that has also inked a deal to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Senate Confirms Robert Wilkie to be Veterans Affairs Secretary
Newest Cabinet member has experience in Congress, Pentagon

The Senate on Monday voted 86-9 to confirm former congressional staffer and Pentagon veteran Robert Wilkie to lead the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

President Donald Trump tapped Wilkie for the post after his previous pick, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, withdrew his nomination following reports that he improperly prescribed medication during his stint as White House physician.

VA Nominee: Shorter Wait Time, Easier Access
But overhaul could take years, Wilkie says

A Senate panel on Wednesday questioned President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department on how he plans to shorten lengthy appointment wait times and make health care access easier at VA hospitals.

Robert Wilkie, tapped by Trump this summer to lead the troubled agency, said that reducing wait times for veterans, which often extend beyond 30 days, would be among his top priorities. But he said it could be several years before the department’s appointment system can be overhauled.

Trump’s Space Force Order Would Need Congressional Action
Senate could be final stumbling block to creation of new service branch

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the Pentagon to create a new service branch dedicated to military operations in space.

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Trump said at the White House, indicating that the proposed service would be completely separate from the other five existing services.

Nuclear Weapons, Border Wall, Military Parade Among NDAA Issues
Trump’s priorities are driving unusually partisan debate on this year’s defense authorization act

The House Armed Services Committee will debate dozens of amendments to the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill during its marathon markup on Wednesday, when lawmakers could introduce a wide variety of proposals, such as authorizing the Pentagon to develop new nuclear weapons and allowing transgender troops to serve in the military.

The legislation, commonly referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, typically draws broad bipartisan support. But the markup is likely to include debate on some of the most controversial defense issues, including transgender troops, low-yield nuclear weapons and downsizing the Pentagon’s civilian workforce.

White House Announces New Russian Sanctions
7 oligarchs, 12 companies, 17 government officials, a state-owned arms company and its bank

The Trump administration on Friday sanctioned nearly 40 Russian government officials, oligarchs and the businesses they own or control in its latest round of sanctions leveled in response to Moscow’s aggression.

Friday’s sanctions, which target Russian security services, energy czars and weapons companies, come in response to Russia’s “malign activity across the world,” a senior administration official said, noting Russia’s occupation of Crimea in Ukraine, support of the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria, subversion of Western democracies and continued belligerent cyber attacks.

Budget Proposal Funds Latest Pentagon Strategy
‘Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department’

The Trump administration is seeking to give the Defense Department as much money as Congress can appropriate for fiscal year 2019 to fund the Pentagon’s newest strategy and to fulfill President Donald Trump’s repeated promise to rebuild the military.

The Pentagon request released Monday claims to align with the Pentagon’s recently released National Defense Strategy, which elevates the possibility of great power conflict with Russia and China as the country’s greatest security concern, eclipsing terrorism.

Mattis Lists Budget Priorities, Warns Against Another Stopgap
Another CR would hurt national security, almost everyone agrees at Tuesday hearing

The Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal 2019 will ask Congress to fund a spate of new high-tech weaponry as well as more traditional military programs, Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers Tuesday.

The proposal, which the Pentagon plans to send to Congress next week, will seek funds for space and cyber operations, nuclear deterrent forces, missile defense, advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence capabilities and professional military education.

Top Pentagon Brass to Brief Lawmakers on New Strategies
Mattis, Selva will testify before House Armed Services Committee

Top Pentagon officials are slated to appear before House Armed Services this week to inform lawmakers about two recently crafted strategic documents that form the basis of the Trump administration’s defense policy.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva will testify before the committee Tuesday morning to brief legislators on the Pentagon’s recently completed National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review.

Trump Applauds ISIS Defeat, Keeps Heat on North Korea
“We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure,” president says during State of the Union

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night touted the military’s success against the Islamic State terror group, his administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intensifying pressure on North Korea as his key national security accomplishments in his first year in office.  

During his first State of the Union address, Trump also announced that he had signed an order to keep open the controversial Guantanamo Bay military detention facility in Cuba. And he called on Congress to lift defense budget caps as the two parties remain firmly at odds over spending, with Democrats insisting on equal increases for nondefense dollars.