Recent Blog Posts
May 24 2013
Article highlights HASC efforts to prevent and prosecute military sexual assault
Congress Stepping Up Its Efforts Against Sexual Assault in Military (Full article)
While her measure, intended to increase the number of people who report crimes without fear of retaliation, is gaining supporters, others suggest it goes too far. “Taking away the power of a commander has some very significant implications in terms of the commander’s ability to deal with the problem,” said Mr. Levin, who will hold hearings on the measure after next week’s spring recess.
May 23 2013
Rejects Lower Pay Raise, TriCare Fee Hikes: A key House panel is rejecting the idea that budget cuts must mean pain for service members, retirees and their families. On Wednesday, the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel is scheduled to take up draft legislation that rejects the 1 percent capped pay raise proposed by the Obama administration and rejects, again, efforts to increase Tricare fees for military retirees and their families. The draft bill prepared by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., the panel chairman, calls for the 1.8 percent pay raise required by law to keep pace with private sector wages.... Wilson’s draft bill also flatly rejects the Defense Department’s latest proposals to increase Tricare Prime enrollment fees, create enrollment fees for Tricare Standard and Tricare for Life, and raise pharmacy copayments. - Army Times, 5/21/13
1.8 Percent Pay Raise for Troops: Troops would see a 1.8 percent pay raise and TRICARE users would see their fees unchanged under a budget bill proposed by House Republicans on Tuesday. The early draft of the annual defense authorization bill also includes plans to eliminate 24 general and flag officer billets, prohibit commanders from dismissing most court martial decisions, and allow Special Operations Command officials to use some of their funding for family support services. - Stars and Stripes, 5/21/13
Sweeping Change to Military Sexual Assault Laws: A House panel is poised to pass sweeping changes in sexual assault prevention programs on Wednesday, with less command flexibility in reducing or dismissing rape and assault charges and wider support for victims. The hot-button personnel issue will come up Wednesday afternoon when the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel passes its part of the 2014 defense authorization bill. - Military Times, 5/21/13
Ensuring Resources for Defense Intelligence: Intent on ensuring the American taxpayers gets value for money and the Defense Department gets tactical intelligence it needs, Rep. Mac Thornberry, wants to fence half of the money for the Pentagon’s new Defense Clandestine Service. “I think that DIA has made significant progress in developing and explaining the DCS,” Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services intelligence and emerging threats subcommittee, said in an interview. “Remember, they are not adding money or people to do this.” He argued that DCS would result in better trained and more effective human collectors. DIA has long fielded spies but they have not been trained or run by anything like the CIA’s Clandestine Service. - BreakingDefense.com, 5/21/13
Blocking Satellite Contracts with China: The Pentagon insists that its deal with a Chinese satellite firm to carry U.S. troops’ communications isn’t a security risk. But Congressmen with the ultra-influential House Armed Services Committee don’t want to leave military data in Beijing’s hands. They’re moving to block any future contracts, like the one the Defense Department just signed. - Wired, 5/21/13New Forward Looking Shipbuilding Plan: Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee, said the Navy is living in a “fantasy land” by putting forward a 30-year shipbuilding plan when the service can’t guarantee funding beyond five years. That puts Forbes at odds with senior Navy officials who are trying to map out what their fleet will look like over the next three decades. His rewrite of the shipbuilding plan was included in the subcommittee’s markup of the Navy’s fiscal 2014 budget plan that was issued Tuesday. - The Hill, 5/21/13
May 22, 2013
"Just how big is this funding gap? Pull out your calculators and follow along for just one minute.
"For the last 30 years the Navy’s average annual shipbuilding budget has been $16 billion. This average rate of spending traversed the 600-ship Navy buildup of the 1980s, the defense “procurement holiday” of the 1990s, and the slow decline of the fleet over the past decade from 318 ships in 2000 to just 283 today.
"Filling the $4 billion shipbuilding shortfall and funding the fleet for the next three decades is a tall order, but it is a challenge we must rise to. What will it take? I have looked for guidance to the 1930s when Congressman Carl Vinson made the public case for funding a modern, global Navy during peacetime as the country began to realize the potential threats it faced abroad. These efforts did much to fundamentally alter the Navy’s composition to meet the coming conflicts with Japan and Germany.
"Sean Stackley, the Navy’s top shipbuilding official, recently pointed to the Reagan build-up of the 60-ship Navy in the 1980s as another example of the type of commitment and investment that will be required to meet the Navy’s stated goals. Both examples provide excellent examples of times when the nation looked into the future and made stern decisions about how it intended to shape it.
"As we consider the rise of China and its activity in the Western Pacific, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the global economy’s dependency on commercial and energy shipping, and other flash points for instability such as the Horn of Africa, it is clear that in the decade ahead we will ask our sea services (Navy and Marine amphibious forces) to make a disproportionate contribution to upholding American interests and provide for our common defense. Just as it was a political decision, albeit an incorrect one, to levy massive defense cuts on the Pentagon over the past three years, we must also choose to resource the Navy and begin to fill the $4 billion shortfall in its shipbuilding account in the years ahead.
May 22 2013
“I think the leadership of the military is confused,” said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, “They believe as long as they have programs where they say 'sexual assault' is wrong that they’ve done enough. No. They have to support the victim, and they have to support vigorous prosecution.”
The Military Personnel Subcommittee Mark of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act includes a number of meaningful, bipartisan reforms to the way sexual assault cases are reported, investigated and punished in the military.
Sweeping Changes: "A House panel is poised by pass sweeping changes in sexual assault prevention programs on Wednesday, with less command flexibility in reducing or dismissing rape and assault charges and wider support for victims.The hot-button personnel issue will come up Wednesday afternoon when the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel passes its part of the 2014 defense authorization bill." - Military Times, 5/21/13
Revisions to Military Law: "Determined to check the growing epidemic of sexual assaults in the armed forces, a House panel is poised to approve a series of revisions to longstanding military law. They include stripping commanding officers of their unilateral authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction and requiring that service members found guilty of sexual offenses be dismissed or dishonorably discharged. The House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the changes, which are supported by Republicans and Democrats and reflect congressional outrage over the poor results that military leaders have achieved in their drive to change the culture within the ranks to combat sexual assault." - The Associated Press, 5/22/13
Correcting the Problem: "The result has been a flurry of legislation from all corners of Capitol Hill aimed at correcting the problem. The annual defense authorization bill, which House Armed Services subcommittees start marking up Wednesday, will incorporate some of these proposals, although the proposals are likely to trigger strong arguments. The approaches differ widely, but there is one constant throughout each bill: Lawmakers of both parties — even some of the Pentagon’s biggest boosters — no longer trust the military to handle this problem on its own" . - Roll Call, 5/21/13
Tougher Penalties: Lawmakers frustrated by a spate of high-profile military sexual assault cases unveiled draft proposals in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.... The Republican-led personnel panel of the House Armed Services Committee proposed additions to the annual defense policy bill that would impose tougher penalties on people who commit sex crimes and would ensure better treatment for victims. - Reuters, 5/21/13
Rep. Randy Forbes Lauds Successful Launch of Navy's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
Lawmaker wants military to promptly alert Congress about drone strikes
The Washington Post
May 8, 2013
Full article here
Rep. Mac Thornberry (Tex.), the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee, said his panel already receives regular reports on counterterrorism operations from the Defense Department. But he said he will introduce a bill Thursday that would codify the practice into law to reassure the public that Congress is providing adequate oversight of drone strikes and other sensitive military operations.
“We’ve been doing a lot of this oversight anyway,” Thornberry said in an interview. “But I think it is time, for a variety of reasons, to formalize that in statute and make it clear to the American people that it’s happening, because a lot of the oversight that has gone on, most people don’t know about it.”
"Thornberry’s bill runs counter to the trend. He said he’s generally satisfied with the way the administration discloses secret military operations to the Armed Services Committee and covert CIA operations to the House Intelligence Committee, of which he is also a member.
The military, he said, briefs his subcommittee within “hours or days” after each drone strike and other “lethal targeting actions” outside Afghanistan. The Pentagon is supposed to do the same for operations that capture suspected terrorists or other individuals outside the war zone, although he acknowledged that there have been only a few cases in recent years.
In recent years, the Armed Forces subcommittee has modified the military’s reporting requirements to keep up with changes in the nature of warfare, he said. Two years ago, lawmakers passed a measure requiring the Defense Department to provide a formal quarterly briefing on counterterrorism operations. Last year, it did the same for cyber operations.
“There’s been a comfort level that’s been achieved and that’s even an additional reason to say, ‘Okay, we’ve got this down to where it’s working pretty well, so let’s put it in statute so everybody knows,’” he said.
Thornberry’s opinion matters because he leads the subcommittee that the Pentagon is supposed to brief about drone strikes and other sensitive operations. But he also has the backing of Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).
“This is consistent with the kind of oversight that the chairman wants to see,” said Claude Chafin, a committee spokesman.
Important New Oversight Legislation for Military Kill/Capture Outside Afghanistan
Professor Robert Chesney
May 9, 2013
Read full post here
"Big news out of the House Armed Services Committee: Representative Mac Thornberry (a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, I proudly note) is going to introduce a bill enhancing oversight of kill/capture operations that may be conducted by the armed forces outside of Afghanistan.
This is a big deal, in my view, an important adjustment to the legal architecture that governs kinetic national security activities and a long-needed response to the increasing significance of such activities outside of conventional battlefields in the post-9/11 era. (This is a topic I treat at some length in this article on the evolution of SOF and CIA activities over time and how that evolution has tended to disrupt the legal framework of oversight. Not surprisingly, I am quite pleased to see a serious legislative initiative to address this issue.)"
May 03 2013
“…neither the president nor his staff have ever approached my committee with a plan, which must be the cornerstone of any effort to close the prison.”
Keep Guantanamo open: Opposing view
Until a better solution is offered, terrorism detainees must stay there.
By Rep. Buck McKeon
I have sent the president no fewer than five letters (PDF) that offered to begin a dialogue or asked substantive questions about his detention policies. In preparing this column, I have provided those letters to USA TODAY. The White House has not replied to a single letter.
No amount of speeches or podium rhetoric can substitute for comprehensive policy. I understand the national discomfort with Guantanamo. Most Americans view terrorist detainees in the abstract. The classified nature of their offenses permit few the ability to understand the very real danger they pose to our security. But they are dangerous. They do mean us harm. And until a better solution is offered, at Guantanamo they must stay.
The president should offer his Guantanamo plan to Congress
By Rep. Buck McKeon, Letter to the Editor
I have reached out to the president on many occasions and offered to discuss a path forward. Each time, I have been met with silence. Podium pronouncements aside, neither the president nor his staff have ever approached my committee with a plan, which must be the cornerstone of any effort to close the prison.
My committee will begin considering the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization bill this month, with final action in the House expected soon after. If the president is serious about a renewed effort to close the facility, he should seize the opportunity and send up his plan. Tell us his proposal for handling current detainees and how he would treat future terrorist captures.
No one believes that Guantanamo offers the perfect solution to the challenges presented by this unconventional war. It is, however, the solution Americans have arrived at after 10 years of debate, court challenges and legislation. If the president has a better solution, now is the time to offer it.
Apr 25 2013
Real Clear Defense: Eaglen and McGrath write the Obama Administration's Shipbuilding Plan "Portends a Navy in Decline"
In an op-ed for Real Clear Defense, National Security experts Mackenzie Eaglen and Bryan McGrath write "the President's budget shrinks and diminishes the Navy's fleet"
April 25, 2013
By Mackenzie Eaglen and Bryan McGrath
"Listening to the Secretary of the Navy testify before Congress this week, one might be lulled into thinking all is well with U.S. Navy shipbuilding. But the president’s budget for 2014 shrinks and diminishes the Navy’s fleet. Again. Last year’s budget accelerated these same trends while permanently downsizing the Navy’s long-standing fleet goal from 313 to 298 ships.
"In taking credit for his tenure, Mr. Mabus was quick to tell Congress that the Obama Administration has placed 43 ships under contract. While this is surely an improvement over recent years, it is artificially inflated because it counts the deal cut with Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) producers to fix the price of 20 ships vice actually acquiring them, which it does not. The Navy continues to purchase these ships in tranches on an annual basis, as opposed to the multi-year procurements of attack submarines and major surface combatants.
"The bottom line remains the same: the Navy is retiring more ships than it plans to build in the President’s 2014 budget request. Over the next five years, the Navy hopes to build 41 ships -- that is if sequestration is repealed or replaced -- but will retire 42 during the same period.
Apr 23 2013
Article highlights a way out of Defense Sequester: Repeal Dangerous Cuts and Focus on Drivers of Debt, Fund Crucial Programs like Missile Defense, and Reduce Pentagon Waste
In a featured article for National Review’s Defense Week, former Sen. Jim Talent (MO) makes the case for why the sequester should be repealed and why “the defense budget is not the problem,” when it comes to excessive spending in the federal budget. “The driver of the budget crisis is the structural gap between the cost of entitlement programs and the revenue collected to fund them,” Talent says.
As I posted recently, every category of primary risk to the United States is growing. The Chinese are building up their power without masking their intent: They want to be able to deny the United States access to the East and South China Seas so they can pursue their national ambitions in those waters. Al-Qaeda is active again in Iraq and has created planning bases in the Arabian peninsula and Northern Africa. Iran is approaching nuclear capability, which it will use in support of its conventional aggression, much as North Korea is doing now. Syria is descending into chaos; the conflict there, and forces unleashed by the Arab Spring, are threatening to destabilize other parts of the Middle East.
Apr 01 2013
The House-passed FY14 Budget would offer our troops and their families some relief and shield them from further damage under sequestration – the third cut to our military in the President's four years in office.
Budget Cuts Hit Military Kids Especially Hard