Patrick Kelley

Pentagon to begin diverting construction funds for border wall
Democrats quick to slam move as an executive power grab

The Pentagon announced Tuesday it would begin diverting $3.6 billion in military construction funding for a wall along the U.S. southern border, even as court challenges continue.

The release of defense money makes good on President Donald Trump’s plan to fund a wall with money never approved by lawmakers for that purpose. Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year to tap military construction accounts and funnel the money to the border instead.

Senate Armed Services sends Hyten nomination to floor despite sexual assault allegations
The committee’s endorsement comes one day after his confirmation hearing, when he defended himself against accusations

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday advanced Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Senate floor amid some opposition from senators concerned about sexual assault allegations launched against the four-star.

The committee’s endorsement of Hyten on a 20-7 vote in a closed-door session comes one day after his confirmation hearing, during which he defended himself against accusations made made by a former subordinate, Army Col. Kathryn A. Spletstoser.

Senate confirms Norquist for No. 2 Pentagon job
Norquist shepherded the DOD through its first audit, and received plaudits from members of both parties during his confirmation

The Senate late Tuesday night confirmed by voice vote David Norquist to be deputy Defense secretary as the chamber rushes to vote on numerous nominees before senators leave town for August recess.

Norquist’s easy, late-night passage underscores his popularity on Capitol Hill. As Pentagon comptroller, he shepherded the Defense Department through its first-ever audit, and received plaudits from members of both parties during his confirmation before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

For Joint Chiefs nominee, a subdued hearing addressing contentious charges
John Hyten defends himself against sexual assault charges before Armed Services panel

President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday publicly defended himself against sexual assault allegations that have clouded his nomination, picking up support from key lawmakers as his accuser, an Army colonel, sat just feet away.

And although the accusations against him are part of a wider cultural issue that has filtered into the presidential campaign, two members of the committee running for president skipped the hearing — and a chance to question the nominee. 

Esper content with defense budget, calls for 'stable leadership'
Top jobs in the Pentagon remain unfilled or are being carried out by 'acting' officials

Newly minted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper enters the top job at a moment of both relief and urgency for the Pentagon.

The relief came from an agreement this week between Congress and the White House to fund the military for the next two years at $738 billion in fiscal 2020 and $740.5 billion in 2021, numbers that defense hawks have said they can live with.

Senate Armed Services hears from Hyten's accuser
Nominee to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff accused of sexual misconduct

The Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony Tuesday from the military officer who has accused Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the nominee to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of sexual misconduct, two Democratic senators said.

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who sits on the committee, told reporters that Hyten’s accuser testified in a closed-door meeting.

Senate confirms Esper to be Defense secretary
The vote ends an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Mark Esper to be the next Defense secretary, 90-8, bringing to an end an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders.

Esper, who has served as Army secretary since 2017, follows James Mattis as President Donald Trump’s second Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

Esper, Milley nominations head to floor; Hyten‘s fate unclear
McConnell lined up Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday advanced to the floor the nominations for Mark Esper to be Defense secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly filed cloture on the nomination, lining up a Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday.

Armed Services panel to huddle on three top Pentagon nominees
Joint Chiefs vice chairman nominee faces stiff headwinds

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a closed-door meeting Thursday, is expected to approve the president’s choice for Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and to discuss the embattled nomination of the Air Force general tapped to be the military’s No. 2 general, committee members and staff said Wednesday.

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief, clearing the way for a Senate vote in the coming days to confirm him. The panel is also expected to send to the floor the nomination of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman.

Esper approval likely, but sexual assault allegations slow Joint Chiefs vice chair pick
Kirsten Gillibrand told CQ Roll Call that she would not support even giving Hyten a vote

Updated 7:05 p.m. | The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a closed-door meeting Thursday, is expected to approve the president’s choice for Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and to discuss the embattled nomination of the Air Force general tapped to be the military’s No. 2 general, committee members and staff said Wednesday.

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief, clearing the way for a Senate vote in the coming days to confirm him. The panel is also expected to send to the floor the nomination of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman.

House approves NDAA with no Republican votes
Progressive amendments helped Dems earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition

The House on Friday approved its defense authorization bill after adopting a slew of progressive amendments that helped Democrats earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition.

The final vote on the fiscal 2020 bill was 220-197. No Republicans supported the typically bipartisan measure that traditionally has earned more than 300 of the 435 available House votes.

Confirmation hearing planned Tuesday for Trump’s Defense secretary pick
The hearing has been scheduled, even though the panel is still waiting to receive his official nomination from the White House

The Senate Armed Services Committee intends to hold a confirmation hearing for Mark Esper, the president’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, on Tuesday even though the panel is still waiting to receive his official nomination from the White House. 

The committee cannot hold Esper’s hearing until the White House delivers his formal nomination paperwork, but have tentatively planned the hearing anyway believing they will soon receive the nomination.

Republicans signal opposition to defense bill as floor debate kicks off
Amendments approved Wednesday included one to prohibit Pentagon from naming new DoD assets after confederate leaders or Civil War victories

The House will continue its debate Thursday on the more than 300 remaining amendments offered to a wide-ranging defense policy bill, after adopting more than 100 noncontroversial amendments Wednesday.

Powerful Republicans signaled their displeasure with the typically bipartisan defense authorization bill, and with the amendments Democrats allowed for floor debate.

Tech vanguard is dodging Pentagon
To recruit the next generation of cyber-sentries, DOD will need a new approach

The Pentagon’s cybersecurity mission is facing a classic supply and demand problem: There’s a nationwide shortage of tech talent and an oversupply of jobs.

This leaves the Pentagon starved of the cyber-sentries needed to defend its digital networks as the nation’s top computer scientists and software engineers often choose careers in the private sector that offer fat salaries and generous benefits.

Senate rejects efforts to limit Trump’s ability to launch war with Iran
The issue will likely be debated next month in the House, when that chamber takes up its own version of the defense bill

The Senate on Friday rejected an amendment to its annual defense authorization bill that would have blocked President Donald Trump from launching a war with Iran without congressional approval.

The issue will likely be debated next month in the House, when that chamber takes up its own version of the defense bill.

Unorthodox Senate deal clears path for Thursday NDAA vote
Democrats had threatened to filibuster the defense bill unless the Iran amendment received a vote on Friday

Senate leaders struck an unusual deal Wednesday afternoon to hold a vote on language that would block President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval, paving the way for a final vote on the massive Pentagon policy measure on Thursday.

But the vote on the Iran amendment will happen on Friday, to accommodate Senate Democrats participating in presidential debates this week, a GOP aide said. If the chamber adopts the language, which has the support of at least two Republican senators, it would then be retroactively included in the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill.

NDAA future uncertain amid amendment disputes

The Senate is barreling toward a procedural vote Wednesday on the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, but the typically bipartisan measure could become the victim of a filibuster amid a battle over amendments.

Democrats could block cloture on the bill if they don’t receive assurances from Senate Republicans of a vote on an amendment that would stop President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval.

Trump’s military transgender ban blocked in House spending bill
The House move lines up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year.

The House on Tuesday used a massive spending bill to block the Pentagon from enforcing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving openly in the military.

By a vote of 243-183, the House adopted an amendment to the four-bill spending package that includes the defense appropriations measure, lining up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year.

Border wall, nuclear weapons to spark partisan fight at defense bill debate
House Armed Services to being marathon annual markup on Wednesday

Adam Smith’s first bill as House Armed Services chairman will surely stir contentious debate during the panel’s markup Wednesday of the annual Pentagon policy bill, a marathon session that is expected to extend into the early morning hours Thursday.

The chairman’s mark — the Washington Democrat’s portion of the massive defense authorization bill — tees up partisan fights on Guantanamo Bay, nuclear weapons and the border wall. It says nothing on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, an issue that Smith said Monday would likely find its way in the bill through a bipartisan amendment.