Patrick Kelley

Senators remain skeptical of Space Force
Lawmakers agreed space defense is important, but many logistical questions remain

Top Pentagon officials on Thursday deployed old arguments to argue for a new military service within the Department of the Air Force focused specifically on space.

The United States risks losing its competitive edge in space to Russia and China unless the Pentagon stands up Space Force to defend extraterrestrial military and commercial interests, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Pentagon wants Congress to replenish funds Trump taps for border wall
Wasserman Schultz calls plan an end-run around Congress

The Pentagon every year comes to Congress to defend its ever-growing budget, highlighting the decrepit military installations and decades-old equipment that must be refurbished or replaced to defend the nation.

But now, Pentagon officials are telling lawmakers that diverting dollars from defense projects to build President Donald Trump’s desired border wall is justified and won’t weaken the military — so long as Congress replenishes the accounts Trump could tap to build the wall.

No military threat at southern border, top U.S. general says
Comments come as House prepares to vote on disapproval of border emergency declaration

The U.S. military commander tasked with defending North America said Tuesday that there is no military threat at the southern border, where President Donald Trump has deployed troops to assist law enforcement in stemming illegal border crossings.

“It is not a military threat,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, who leads U.S. Northern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday morning. He quickly added that doesn’t necessarily mean the military should not be involved in the border mission.

Reed: Congress should be consulted on any Colombia deployment
The top Democrat on Senate Armed Services warned generals against planning military intervention in Venezuela without congressional input

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee warned generals on Thursday against planning a military intervention in Venezuela without first seeking congressional input.

“Congress must be consulted if there is any military action beyond the current planning for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and embassy personnel" in Venezuela, Jack Reed of Rhode Island told Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

Armed Services experience is ‘in’ for 2020 presidential
Gillibrand, Warren and Gabbard will play up their national security cred as they vie to be commander in chief

Three sitting members of Congress who have announced plans to seek the presidency in 2020 have a few things in common: they’re all Democrats, they’re all women, and they all sit on their respective chamber’s Armed Services committee.

To date, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have formed committees to explore a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, while Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has officially launched her presidential campaign.

Trump Loves Space Force. Can He Convince Skeptical Lawmakers?
Congressional authorization required to create new service branch

President Donald Trump may typically communicate via quickly fired, unfiltered tweets, but when he talks about creating a Space Force to defend vulnerable U.S. satellites and other extraterrestrial interests, his language becomes uncharacteristically poetic.

“The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers,” he said in June as he instructed the Defense Department to create this new force. “But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security — important for our military, so important.”

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.