John M. Donnelly

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.

Pentagon knew peace-talks fund would ‘likely’ benefit Taliban
Document suggests some money would give ‘material support to terrorists’

Pentagon leaders formally asked Congress in writing earlier this year for a $30 million fund to support peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban, even though, the Defense Department officials wrote, it was “likely” some of the money would materially support terrorists.

The legislative proposal, obtained by CQ Roll Call, suggests that the fiscal 2020 money to cover logistics involved in the negotiations may directly or indirectly provide financial support to violent groups in Afghanistan that have been fighting Americans and their own countrymen, including in targeted attacks on civilians, for nearly 18 years.

Air Force secretary: send disaster money ASAP
Officials say it will cost nearly $10 billion to repair recent storm damage at military bases

Heather Wilson, the outgoing Air Force secretary, said Thursday that the Defense Department desperately needs Congress to quickly bankroll recovery from recent storm damage at military bases, which officials say will cost nearly $10 billion to fix.

Senate leaders are drafting a disaster aid supplemental bill that may contain a down payment in aid for Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The House passed its own version last week with $1.5 billion to help military installations recover from hurricanes.

Administration wants to reimburse Taliban’s travel expenses
As if ‘life imitating The Onion’ according to one taxpayer advocate

The Trump administration asked Congress earlier this year for funds to reimburse Afghanistan’s Taliban for expenses the insurgent group incurs attending peace talks, according to a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, said Kevin Spicer, spokesman for Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, in a statement for CQ Roll Call.

Pentagon moves $1.5 billion more to border wall
Senate Democrats, led by Durbin, are contesting the decision

Updated 4:02 p.m. | The Defense Department is taking $1.5 billion from what officials there are calling lower-priority programs and redirecting it toward projects aimed at securing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Pentagon budget document.

The shift brings to $2.5 billion the amount of defense money diverted to date for the border wall project, with up to $3.6 billion more to come from military construction projects under President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration issued in January.

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.

Navy brass gets grilling on defective ships, idle subs, other spending priorities
At a hearing with Navy leaders, Rep. Visclosky hinted he may rearrange the service’s budget plan to address concerns

Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, the son of an ironworker and an ardent shipbuilding advocate, is signaling that his first bill as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense may not actually go so easy on the Navy.

The 18-term lawmaker has long championed construction of Navy ships, perhaps partly because so many of them are made with Indiana steel. But the longtime leader of the Congressional Steel Caucus is worried about warship defects and idle submarines, and he’s not pleased with a dearth of daycare at Navy bases.

Lawmakers spar big-time on behalf of rocket companies
Billions of dollars in business, and the future of national security, are at stake in fight over developing a new generation of rockets

More than two-dozen House members have thrown the latest punch in a bare-knuckled fight that pits competing U.S. rocket manufacturers and their allies on Capitol Hill against one another.

A bipartisan group of 28 House members urged Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson in an April 12 letter not to alter the service’s blueprint for developing a new generation of rockets to lift U.S. military and spy satellites into orbit. But plenty of other lawmakers have pushed for several changes.

Navy routinely buys defective ships
Former shipbuilding executive: “There’s an old adage: ‘A ship so nice, we built it twice’”

For the U.S. Navy, buying warships that are defective, unfinished or both has become the norm.

The habit is expensive, dangerous and leaves overworked sailors to deal with faulty ships in need of repair from day one — yet it has escaped sufficient scrutiny in Washington.

Navy spends epically on shoddy ships
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 144

For the U.S. Navy, buying warships that are defective, unfinished or both has become the norm. The habit is expensive, dangerous and leaves overworked sailors to deal with faulty ships in need of repair from day one. Yet, the practice has escaped sufficient scrutiny in Washington even though taxpayers are on the hook for repeated repairs, reports CQ senior writer John M. Donnelly. Most new ships, he says, go to sea with one or more major defects — even after months of repair work and test...