John M. Donnelly

Blue Origin files protest in controversial rocket competition
The rocket manufacturer protested Monday, saying the contract solicitation the Air Force issued in the spring is unfair

In a move that will reverberate in Congress, a top U.S. rocket manufacturer formally protested on Monday the terms of a multi-billion-dollar Air Force competition for launching America’s future national security satellites.

Blue Origin of Washington state, one of four likely bidders for the work, filed its protest with the Government Accountability Office, citing concerns that the contract solicitation the Air Force issued in the spring is unfair.

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.

DOD workers bought thousands of Chinese electronics vulnerable to hacks, spying
More than 9,000 commercially available products could be used to spy on or hack U.S. military personnel and facilities

Defense Department employees have procured thousands of printers, cameras and computers that carry known cybersecurity risks, and the practice may be continuing, according to an audit released Tuesday by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

More than 9,000 commercially available information technology products bought in fiscal 2018 could be used to spy on or hack U.S. military personnel and facilities, the report said. Without fixing oversight of such purchases, more risks lie ahead, potentially including perils for top-dollar weapons that use such “commercial-off-the-shelf” or COTS devices.

Senate confirms four-star general, inches forward another despite sexual assault allegations
The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Senate on Thursday voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just hours after the Armed Services Committee decided to move forward with Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be the military’s No. 2 officer despite lingering questions about allegations of sexual assault.

The progress on the Joint Chiefs nominees comes as senators try to firm up leadership at the Pentagon, which has been in a state of transition for months.

Racial terms have marred military forms
Words like ‘negroid’ linger despite decades-old federal directive to root them out

A Marine Corps captain named Jahmar Resilard was one of six military personnel who were killed Dec. 6 when the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet he was piloting collided in midair with a military refueling plane during training off the coast of Japan.

Resilard, 28, was African American — a fact that is only relevant because of what happened after his death.

Did the Pentagon weaponize ticks?
CQ on Congress, Episode 162

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 demands to see Trump’s cyberwarfare directive
But senators who oversee the Pentagon are not as concerned

A small but significant quarrel is emerging between a bipartisan team of lawmakers in the House and the Trump administration over how the Pentagon is going about using its newly minted authority to strike back against adversaries in cyberspace.

Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and its emerging threats subcommittee — in a rare instance of bipartisan pushback against the White House — have repeatedly asked administration officials for a still-secret memo issued by President Donald Trump that lifted earlier restrictions on U.S. Cyber Command’s operations against adversaries.

House orders Pentagon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them
The order requires the agency to say if it experimented with insects for use as a biological weapon between 1950 and 1975

The House quietly voted last week to require the Pentagon inspector general to tell Congress whether the department experimented with weaponizing disease-carrying insects and whether they were released into the public realm — either accidentally or on purpose.

The unusual proposal took the form of an amendment that was adopted by voice vote July 11 during House debate on the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, which lawmakers passed the following day.

House to Trump: Cough up cyberwarfare directive
Administration's decision to withhold policy doc from Congress is highly unusual, members say

The House on Thursday voted to require the White House to give Congress a cyberwarfare directive that senior members say the administration has refused to turn over for nearly a year.

The language, which would force the administration to turn over “all National Security Presidential Memorandums relating to Department of Defense operations in cyberspace,” sailed through the chamber on a voice vote as part of a package of noncontroversial amendments to the annual defense policy bill.

‘We are not going to be intimidated into making stupid decisions,’ Joint Chiefs pick says
At a confirmation hearing, senators expressed hope for steadiness and steeliness from the U.S. military’s top officer

Senate Armed Services members expressed hope Thursday for steadiness and steeliness from the U.S. military’s top officer, with the Pentagon beset by leadership chaos and the president reacting unconventionally to proliferating threats.

The occasion was a confirmation hearing for Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief, who has been nominated to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

America is woefully unprepared for cyber-warfare
From hacks to misinformation campaigns, its adversaries are winning in the virtual battleground

War in cyberspace is fully on, and the United States is losing it, according to about two dozen national security experts.

The U.S. military is increasingly adept at mounting cyberattacks in places like Russia and Iran, but America’s computers are almost completely defenseless. Without strong protections, offensive attacks can be invitations for disaster instead of deterrents.

Both parties scored political points in war powers debate
Senate debate was feisty, fierce and principled — and transparently tailored for partisan effect

ANALYSIS — The Senate’s debate last week on presidential war powers was substantive, serious and passionate — with the added benefit of enabling each party to score some political points.

The debate pertained to whether and how to hem in President Donald Trump’s authority to attack Iran amid heightened tensions in the Middle East that spiked this month when Iran shot down a U.S. drone and Trump pulled up just short of launching a counterattack.

Senate NDAA sets a plutonium target experts deem a ‘fantasy’
CBO: Proposal by Senate to surge production of key building blocks for new nuclear arms would cost about $17 billion over a decade

The Senate is poised to approve legislation Thursday that would codify a plan to spend billions of dollars to surge production of key building blocks for new nuclear arms.

The hawkish Senate’s coming move to set a new and more solid requirement for building plutonium cores for atomic weapons is buried deep inside its $750 billion fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill.

Pentagon aid to Taliban gets blocked by House vote
The House adopted an amendment that would bar the Pentagon from spending any funds to aid the Taliban

The House adopted late Tuesday night an amendment to its fiscal 2020 Defense appropriations bill that would bar the Pentagon from spending any of its funds to aid the Taliban insurgent group in Afghanistan.

CQ Roll Call disclosed last month that the Pentagon had asked Congress earlier this year for a $30 million fund that would at least partly be used in the coming fiscal year to defray the Taliban’s expenses associated with participating in talks to end the nearly 18-year-old war.

Drums of looming Iran war resound in Congress
As NDAA debate begins, McConnell urges colleagues ‘to keep these deadly serious developments at the top of our minds’

The Senate is launching a debate on its annual defense authorization bill this week amid the specter of war with Iran.

It is not clear to what extent possible U.S. military strikes on Iran will play a role in debate on the $750 billion measure or, for that matter, in a separate vote this week on blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch foe.

‘My way or the highway’: An approach to the NDAA debate
There are nearly 400 amendments filed to the bill, which has become law the past 58 years

The Senate is expected to debate the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill this week, but it may be a debate in name only.

In the past six years, the Senate has approved scores of amendments to the mammoth Pentagon policy bill, known as the NDAA — short for National Defense Authorization Act. But almost all of them have been of the unobjectionable variety, approved by unanimous consent as part of huge packages of similarly uncontroversial proposals.

Taliban money and fighter jets at issue in Pentagon's $690 billion bill
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 110

House appropriators this week will take up the biggest of the 12 annual spending bills, the $690 billion Pentagon measure that includes some prickly issues such as funding for Taliban expenses for peace talks with the U.S. and money to give the Pentagon more F-35 fighter jets than it requested, says CQ Roll Call's senior defense reporter John M. Donnelly. He lays out what is likely to happen to the measure that assumes higher spending levels for fiscal 2020.