Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
November 22, 2014

Senator: Obama Immigration Move Could Hurt Full-Year Pentagon Spending Bill

Defense News reports that “President Obama’s end-run around lawmakers on immigration could derail hopes for a measure that would fund the federal government — including the Pentagon — through September.”

“Obama took to the prime time airwaves Thursday evening to announce an executive order that would defer deportations of illegal aliens, drawing the immediate ire of congressional Republicans, especially because the president himself said in 2013 such a move would be unconstitutional.”

“’This could move us in the direction of a CR [continuing resolution], I think,’ Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told CongressWatch a few hours before Obama spoke.”

“’I would like an omnibus, but not at any price,’ Shelby said. ‘I think it changes a lot of things. We’ll have to see. It could poison the water and drive us toward a CR.’”

About Topic A

Policy Analysis, Commentary & Discussion

Topic A is a digital meeting place for industry and policy experts to exchange ideas and viewpoints on the most pressing questions facing the national security community.

Some of the content is from Roll Call and some is original to this blog. It includes Sponsor Content clearly marked.

The blog is curated by an independent team of editors hired by Roll Call.

Read more about Topic A

Durbin Says Omnibus in Progress, Warns Against Defense CR

Appropriators appear to be making good progress on behind-the-scenes negotiations on a big omnibus bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, Roll Call reports.

That’s the word from Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate who also happens to wield the gavel of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.

“I just finished a Defense Appropriation subcommittee joint meeting this morning. We’ve agreed on virtually everything, but four or five issues,” he said. “Those five issues are going upstairs, which is not unusual, to be decided at the full committee level. I hear that they’re going to meet [on] Dec. 1, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, at the highest level to resolve these outstanding issues. We’re moving forward on a good program to get an omnibus done.”
Durbin warned against using another continuing resolution to keep the government operating past Dec. 11, a move suggested by a number of Republicans who want the chance for next year’s GOP controlled Congress to weigh-in on federal spending early on, particularly in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Japan Takes Greater Role in Naval War Games with U.S.

Reuters reports that “Japan stepped up its role in large-scale war games with the United States this week, with one of its admirals commanding air and sea maneuvers that the U.S. military described as the most complex ever overseen by the Japanese navy.”

“The Keen Sword exercises involving more than 30,000 Japanese troops and 11,000 U.S. personnel come as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks a higher profile for Japan in the security alliance.”

“At the same time, Washington has encouraged Tokyo to take a greater share of the defense burden, especially as China’s military modernizes rapidly.”

Growler: Providing Critical Protection to Our Warfighters

Boeing_Growler_1

(Boeing Photo)

Electronic Attack Squadron 139 (VAQ-139) – the Cougars – is a U.S. Navy squadron currently deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in the Persian Gulf. With five EA-18G Growlers flying from the ship, the capabilities of the aircraft are critical to operations.

The Growler provides electronic sensing and attack capability to U.S. Navy, joint and coalition forces. The flexibility of the aircraft allows it to address threats of vastly different magnitudes, whether interrupting command and control networks for enemy communications on the ground, or creating a sanctuary for allied operations in a sophisticated Integrated Air Defense System (IADS).

The Growler provides essential protection for U.S. and allied forces. Watch this video to hear more from Growler operators firsthand.

USAF: Budget Ups and Downs Create Challenges

Defense News reports that “the uncertainty over whether Congress will pass a budget has been “very challenging” for both the Air Force and its industry partners, the service’s top military acquisitions official said Wednesday.”

“’The last couple of years, and this year included, have been a real challenging time because of the uncertainty,’ Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy for acquisition, told reporters at an event hosted by the Defense Writer’s Group. ‘First the challenge of the budget going down, but even more the uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll have the ability to execute your contracts.'”

“’It’s made it very challenging, both for us and for industry.’”

“The good news, such as it is, is that the Air Force has become used to the budget uncertainty and planned accordingly to keep major programs on track this year. But not knowing what fiscal parameters the service will have to operate under next year challenges what acquisition decisions can and must be made to meet priorities.”

Open Skies: US Taking Photos Over Russian Airspace

Stars and Stripes reports that “during the past several days, a U.S. observation plane has been flying over Russian skies, taking photos of military installations and equipment — all with permission of the Russians.”

“The flight comes amid Russia’s increasing isolation over its military moves in Ukraine and fears of a new Cold War between Moscow and Washington.”

“Once upon a time, all surveillance flights were conducted covertly by the likes of Francis Gary Powers, the former Air Force pilot who spent almost two years in a Russian prison after his U-2 spy plane was downed by a Soviet missile over Sverdlovsk in 1960.”

Dempsey: ISIS War Could Last 4 Years

Military.com reports that “the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff estimates the U.S.-led fight against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria will last up to four years.”

“Army Gen. Martin Dempsey made the estimate on Wednesday during an interview at Atlantic Media’s Defense One conference in Washington, D.C. about the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.”

“The U.S. started launching airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria to thwart the organization’s advances in some areas, though the militants still control vast parts of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria.”

Veterans Helping Veterans

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 12.37.47 PM

Click on image to see a video of volunteers honoring veterans by rebuilding their home. (SARAH REED/BOEING)

On a brisk fall morning, in a suburb of St. Louis, Mo, U.S. veterans were recently honored in a very special way. More than 175 volunteers converged on a small apartment complex that had fallen in disrepair. The complex is home to more than 30 veterans, and the volunteers were there to rebuild not only cracking sidewalks but the spirit of many of the home’s occupants.

The apartments are run by U.S.VETS – an organization that provides affordable housing to homeless veterans nationwide. With the help of Rebuilding Together- St. Louis, the volunteers replanted shrubbery, repaint apartments and re-kindle the spirits of the veterans who live in the complex.

Boeing recognizes that defense of a nation is an enduring mission. The company and its employees are committed to supporting our nation’s military personnel, veterans and their families through events like this one in St. Louis and many others around the nation. With more than 21,000 veterans and reservists among the Boeing ranks, the company recognizes the unique value veterans bring to the workplace, and works to create opportunities, invest in programs and form partnerships that benefit them and their families.

In 2013, Boeing and its employees contributed more than $16.4 million to support more than 350 military and veterans-specific organizations and efforts. Partnerships and contributions focus on helping veterans transition into civilian careers and communities, meeting the needs of military families and providing leadership development to service members as well as paying tribute to and honoring their legacy of service.

The company also shows appreciation for the contribution of service members past and present through sponsorship of programs like A Salute to the Troops: In Performance at the White House, a concert event taped on the South Lawn of the White House for hundreds of troops and their guests and broadcast on public television.

U.S. Military Building Fewer Ebola Clinics

USA Today reports that “a decline in new Ebola infections combined with an increase in international assistance prompted the U.S. military to reduce the number of treatment clinics it is building in Liberia to 10 from the previously planned 17, according to USAID, the federal international assistance agency.”

“The number of daily Ebola infections has declined from nearly 100 per day in September to about 25, which has reduced the need for Ebola clinics throughout Liberia.”

“The government had initially sought foreign assistance to build 27 clinics across the country, 17 of which would be built by U.S. troops. The total number of clinics has been cut to 25. The U.S. military has finished one and is working to complete nine more in coordination with Liberian troops, Justin Pendarvis, deputy leader of the USAID Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team in Liberia, said Tuesday.”

Putin Crony Makes Millions from Air Force Contract

A Reuters investigation finds that the Air Force relies on rocket engines made by a company overseen by associates of Vladimir Putin. Documents show a U.S.-Russian middleman stands to make $93 million on the contract.

“For months, Sen. John McCain has been pushing for details of a murky deal under which a Russian manufacturer supplies the rocket engines used to launch America’s spy satellites into space. At issue: how much the U.S. Air Force pays for the engines, how much the Russians receive, and whether members of the elite in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia are secretly profiting by inflating the price.”

“A tiny Florida-based company, acting as a middleman in the deal, is marking up the price by millions of dollars per engine. That five-person company, RD Amross, is a joint venture of Russian engine maker NPO Energomash and a U.S. partner, aerospace giant United Technologies. According to internal company documents that lay out the contract, Amross stands to collect $93 million in cost mark-ups under its current multi-year deal to supply the RD-180 rocket engine. Those charges are being added to the program despite a 2011 Pentagon audit that contested a similar, earlier contract with Amross. That deal would have allowed Amross to receive about $80 million in “profit” mark-ups and overhead expenses on RD-180 engines, government documents show. The confidential report of the 2011 audit described the mark-ups and additional charges as improper under U.S. contracting law. Amross, the auditors concluded, was a middleman that did “no or negligible” work. The audit characterized the $80 million in added costs as “unallowable excessive pass-through charges.”

Told of the Reuters findings, McCain said the Obama administration’s response, he said in a written statement, signals “it is either ignorant of these allegations or unwilling to investigate them. This is unacceptable.”

Pentagon Budget Will Exceed Sequestration Cuts

“The Pentagon expects to submit a five-year budget that will violate mandatory spending caps for the second consecutive year, according to the Defense Department’s comptroller,” Bloomberg reports.

“The fiscal 2016-2020 budget probably will “once again say ‘here’s what we think we need’ and not submit a budget that is directed at the caps” imposed under the spending cuts known as sequestration, Comptroller Mike McCord said in an interview.”

“Though the Defense Department hasn’t received final budget guidance from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, ;I would be really surprised if we changed our position at this point and say, ‘Yes, we’ll submit a sequester-level budget and just call it a day,’ McCord said in the Nov. 12 interview.”

Marines Recognize Fallen

image002-2On November 1, 1921, Gen. John A. Lejuene, the 13th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, directed every command to publish a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps on the service’s birthday. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. This year marks the 239th Birthday of the Marine Corps and to honor tradition, the Semper Fi Society of St Louis commemorated the occasion with an event at Boeing Defense, Space & Security in St. Louis, Mo., bringing together area Marines in celebration of the birth of the Marine Corps, while paying respects to the fallen from all services and honoring Gold Star Families who have lost loved ones killed in action.

An empty chair and a single lone table was draped in black, signifying all of the fallen service members who could not attend the celebration because they had given the full measure of devotion to our country. A single lighted candled and a Purple Heart medal served as a reminder of battle and those who have fallen in the line of duty. The identification tags were blank, yet they could bear the name of any service member. The dinner setting was inverted, signifying that the fallen break bread in spirit only.

Only a few Americans choose the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our nation’s enemies. As a consequence of that choice, some have paid the ultimate price, joining the honor roll of heroes who built the noble legacy of the Corps. As Marines gather in celebration of history, Gold Star Families gather in shadows of greatness. Though their fallen can no longer participate in the traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps birthday, they will always be a part of the Corps and what it represents.

Keeping Tabs on the Pentagon

“If you want to find out how much the Pentagon’s military operations cost, Todd Harrison is your go-to guy,” The Hill reports.

“Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), tracks defense spending, and he estimated the possible costs of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) before the Pentagon released comprehensive spending figures.”

“A September report Harrison produced estimated that the war could cost the U.S. between $2.4 billion and $22 billion per year depending on the number of ground troops and intensity of air operations.”

NDIA Names McKinley as New Head

Defense News reports that “the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) announced today that retired US Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley will take over as president and CEO on Jan. 1.”

“McKinley, the former chief of the National Guard Bureau, will succeed Larry Farrell, who led NDIA since 2001.”

“One of the largest defense industrial associations, NDIA wields considerable influence both inside the Pentagon and on the Hill.”

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...