Andrew Clevenger

Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon brings military experience and political savvy to his new job
A former Raytheon lobbyist, Esper has also been an Army officer and congressional staffer

Mark Esper has been an Army officer, congressional staffer and corporate lobbyist. Now the Army secretary is the third person President Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Pentagon, at least temporarily.

In two tweets Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was out after six months on the job — and was withdrawing from consideration for the permanent post to “devote more time to his family.” Esper, in turn, got promoted and a ringing endorsement from the commander in chief.

Panel approves pilot program to take military sexual assault cases outside chain of command
The number of sexual assaults at military service academies more than doubled 2013 to 2018, Speier said

Advocates of taking the decision for prosecuting military sexual assaults — a persistent problem within the ranks — outside the chain of command scored a significant victory Wednesday when the House Armed Services Committee approved a pilot program that would do just that at the service academies.

Rep. Jackie Speier, chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, pushed through a four-year program that would require the commandants of the service academies to follow the recommendation of an independent prosecutor in cases of sexual assault.

House Armed Services strikes agreement on Trump’s Space Force
Lawmakers plan to insert it as an amendment to the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill on Wednesday

Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have agreed to language that would create a streamlined Space Force — a top priority of President Donald Trump’s — and plan to insert it as an amendment to the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill on Wednesday.

The draft version of the bill known as the chairman’s mark did not include language on Space Force, which appeared to indicate that House Armed Services Democrats were not on board with authorizing Space Force in their version of the massive Pentagon policy bill.

Military pay raise and troop increase endorsed by Senate panel
The Defense Department’s requests included 7,700 additional troops and a 3.1 percent military pay raise next year

The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee quickly approved its portion of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill Tuesday by a voice vote, endorsing the Defense Department’s requests for 7,700 additional troops and a 3.1 percent military pay raise next year.

The subcommittee, the only of the Armed Services panels to hold a public markup, approved a manager’s package of 54 amendments by voice vote. But the committee did not make any information publicly available about the amendments.

Shanahan’s confirmation as Defense secretary seems likely, if bumpy
Nominee’s ties to Boeing have come under scrutiny

The Senate appears likely to confirm Patrick Shanahan as secretary of Defense, barring an unforeseen and damaging disclosure — but not before senators pose some pointed questions of the nominee.

The White House announced on Thursday evening that President Donald Trump intends to nominate Shanahan to run the Pentagon. Shanahan has served as acting secretary since Jan. 1, when James Mattis, the Defense Department’s former boss, quit.

Air Force defends plan to buy new F-15s, fewer F-35s
Over the next five years, the Air Force plans to buy two dozen fewer F-35s than it had planned just last year

Air Force officials on Thursday faced pushback from House Armed Services members concerned that the service’s plan to buy upgraded fourth-generation fighters won’t come at the expense of state-of-the-art F-35 jets.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes $1.1 billion slated to buy eight F-15EXs, with plans to purchase another 136 by 2024. At the same time, the service reduced the number stealthy F-35As to 48, although it later included 12 of the jets on a wish list of items that didn’t make the budget cut.

Punishment for border wall money transfer could pinch Pentagon
Lawmakers want to remind the White House who holds the power of the purse

President Donald Trump’s controversial border wall could propel lawmakers to end a time-honored “gentleman’s agreement” that has allowed the Pentagon to shift billions of dollars around in its budget — a move that could hamstring the military’s ability to respond quickly to unforeseen events.

House Democrats are poised to retaliate against Trump’s decision to repurpose Defense Department funds to help pay for the wall along the southern border, and the Pentagon’s budget flexibility seems to be the target.

Air Force halts deliveries of Boeing tankers for second time
The planes were refused after Boeing failed to resolve issues with tools and parts being left in plane compartments

The Air Force is again refusing to accept Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus tankers after the company failed to resolve issues with tools and parts erroneously left in the plane’s compartments, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told lawmakers Tuesday.

The tankers, based on a 767 commercial jet, are the latest problem for the domestic aerospace giant, which has been under intense scrutiny since the recent fatal crashes of two 737-Max planes.

Lawmakers want to boost Pentagon input on tariffs
A proposal gives the Pentagon a lead role on deciding whether tariffs are needed to protect national security

As the trade war with China drags on, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers is pushing to give the Defense Department the lead role in analyzing whether tariffs are needed to protect national security.

The draft legislation, released Wednesday in both the House and Senate, marks a significant revision of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which gave the Commerce Department the authority to analyze the tariffs and ultimately make a recommendation to the president on whether to invoke national security.

New car tariffs could miss their intended target
Trade war with China still simmering

The Trump administration is weighing whether to invoke national security to place tariffs on cars, even as questions linger about the effectiveness of similar tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Almost eight months after those steel and aluminum tariffs went into effect, the U.S. remains embroiled in a trade war with China, and some of America’s closest allies — Canada, Mexico and the European Union — are caught in the crossfire.

Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans have a new look for the 116th
5 GOP freshmen got spots on the panel, coveted by lawmakers from states with defense industry presences

As the Senate Armed Services Committee sets about its work in the 116th Congress, a handful of new faces will help shape the national security debate on the Republican side of the dais.

Five GOP freshmen have landed spots on the panel, an unusually high number for a committee that is particularly coveted among members whose states have military or defense industry presences.

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.”

No Price Tag Yet for Trump's Space Force, Pentagon Says
Nascent military service is a priority for the president

The Pentagon does not yet know how much the nascent Space Force will cost, but nonetheless is working with Congress to write legislation creating the new military branch proposed by President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday.

“We have not done the costing estimates [on Space Force], that’s under way right now,” Mattis told reporters during a rare on-camera appearance in the Pentagon’s briefing room.

Space Force Proposal Comes With Little Political Risk for Trump
It ‘will look like a quaint idea by 2020,’ one analyst says

Whether the Space Force becomes a reality or not, the Trump re-election campaign will likely face few consequences in 2020 for shooting for the stars.

Speaking at the Pentagon last week, Vice President Mike Pence laid out an ambitious agenda for standing up a new branch of the military by 2020. Establishing a new agency — much less a new military department to stand beside those of the Army, Navy and Air Force — is a complicated, time-consuming affair, filled with bureaucratic headaches.

Space Farce? The Challenges of Creating a New Military Department in Just 2 Years: Podcast
CQ on Congress, Episode 115

Space is the “next battlefield,” Vice President Mike Pence said this week. CQ editor Patrick B. Pexton talks with reporter Andrew Clevenger about all the steps needed to create the Space Force. The biggest challenge? A just-passed, two-year defense authorization bill that’s on the president’s desk awaiting his signature. That bill has no extra funds for such an ambitious enterprise that critics say isn’t even necessary to protect the U.S. from space-based threats.

Army Seeks Money Shift as Long-Range Weapons Get Longer
Branch leans into Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy with $46 million request

The Army has asked Congress to allow it to move $46 million in fiscal 2018 money to its efforts to improve its ability to hit targets at long range.

The money would be spent on a deep strike cannon artillery system, part of the Army’s plans to develop weapons that can strike accurately at far distances. Army planners project that future land battles will be fought at greater distances, beyond 70 kilometers of range for projectiles and hundreds of kilometers via surface-to-surface missiles.

Pentagon Gender Gap Persists in Trump Era Even as Women Rise in Industry
At the Defense Department, 46 out of 52 positions confirmed or awaiting confirmation went to men

When Kathy Warden takes over as CEO of Northrop Grumman in January, women will run three of the primes, as the largest American defense firms are known.

Warden joins Marillyn Hewson at Lockheed Martin and Phebe Novakovic at General Dynamics as CEOs, while executive vice president Leanne Caret heads Boeing’s defense business.

Higher NATO Defense Spending May Not Help U.S. Contractors
European countries would seek to spend dollars at home, analysts say

President Donald Trump emerged from the NATO summit in Brussels touting a renewed commitment from members to increase their defense spending, but U.S. defense firms might want to hold off on the champagne — at least for now.

Trump claimed that European leaders had pledged to accelerate their individual efforts to reach the goal of spending 2 percent of their country’s gross domestic product on defense, possibly hitting that target sometime next year rather than by 2024 as originally planned.

Defense Officials: US Needs Coordinated China Tech Strategy
“China is the embodiment of the military technology transfer challenge”

Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. intellectual property and technology are pervasive and not limited to cyber theft, defense and intelligence officials told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Beijing is also investing in U.S. companies, sending students to American universities, embarking on joint business ventures and cheating on trade agreements, said Anthony Schinella, national intelligence officer for military issues at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

On Cloud Computing Contract, No JEDI Contract Tricks
Pentagon undersecretary denies Amazon has a leg up

With up to $10 billion at stake, industry watchers are paying close attention to the Pentagon’s cloud computing contract, which is expected to be awarded by the end of the year.

Given Amazon’s cloud computing expertise, some have speculated that the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, is theirs to lose, President Donald Trump’s distaste for the company notwithstanding.