Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

October 30, 2014

ISIS Increasingly Learning to Become Like a Country

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Iraqi forces on an armored personnel carrier advance in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, north of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala on Oct. 30 after they retook the area ISIS jihadists. (Hidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)

First came word that ISIS was sorting out how to run post offices and other services. Now there’s a report that they’ve figured out how to run an advanced intelligence apparatus. Full story

Begich vs. Sullivan Senate Debate Shows Rising Role of National Security in Midterms

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Alaska Sen. Mark Begich arrives for the Senate closed briefing in the Capitol on the White House strategy on ISIS on Sept. 11. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

For the latest evidence that national security and foreign policy are figuring into the midterm elections in ways they weren’t even two months ago, consider the Wednesday evening Senate debate in Alaska: Full story

Video: In the Cockpit of a U-2 Spy Plane, Up High and Down Low

We recently wrote how it looked like the storied U-2 spy plane would likely avert retirement yet again this year, as well as about how the plane is difficult to land and flies so very, very high. Watch the video above to see what it looks like from the cockpit when the U-2 gets way, way up there, then check out the view from a chase car during the landing.

If you want to watch another U-2 landing as viewed from a chase car, here’s a taste. Then, for another view from 70,000 feet, try here or here, with the second link offering some testimonials from U-2 pilots.

And if you want to read about the U-2′s competition in the Obama fiscal 2015 budget, McClatchy recently penned a feature on the Global Hawk.

October 29, 2014

With ‘Bibi’ Comments, More Unhelpful Election Season Talk from Anonymous Administration Officials

Just a few weeks ago, some anonymous Obama administration sources floated the notion of bringing Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil by going around Congress. Last week, some more anonymous administration officials floated the notion that they might make a deal with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid dealing with Capitol Hill on sanctions relief.

Both stories gave Republicans campaign fodder as elections neared. Apparently addicted to supplying ammunition to the administration’s critics on the campaign trail, the latest hubbub served up by an anonymous administration official was to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” The response has been predictable. Full story

For His Final Act, Chuck Hagel Plans to Think Big

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Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by ISIS on Sept. 16. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Asked Wednesday about his goals during the Obama administration’s final two years, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the idea is to “bring this country back together to work together to address the big, big issues coming at our country that will have long-term consequences for our society, for our next generation.”

That means: the ongoing threat of terrorism, climate change and other challenges not likely to subside anytime soon. Full story

October 28, 2014

No Confusion Over Military, Civilian Quarantine Rules, Obama Says

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Obama makes a statement on his administration’s response to the Ebola crisis before departing the White House on Oct. 28. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

To some, the Pentagon has seemed to be at odds with the White House message over quarantines for those fighting Ebola in Africa; while the Defense Department is weighing an expanded quarantine like the one the Army has already used, the White House has emphasized that blanket quarantines for health workers is a bad policy.

On Tuesday, in brief remarks to the media, President Obama explained what he saw as the difference. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:48 p.m.
Army, Foreign Policy

Super Soldier Exosuit Showing Improvement, According to Researchers

The Pentagon’s futuristic R&D wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, wants to construct a suit meant to give “superhuman” abilities to soldiers, although they’re more like “betterhuman”  qualities — reducing fatigue, increasing speed, boosting the ability to carry more weight, and doing it all with less risk of injury. The above video shows how testing is going for prototypes at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Full story

Unfinished Afghanistan Prison Renovation Plagued By Shoddy Workmanship, Watchdog Says

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A hallway in the prison. (credit: SIGAR)

Afghanistan’s largest prison was supposed to be renovated under a State Department contract to allow it to take in more detainees, but five years later, the project sits unfinished, hampered by defective workmanship and other problems, according to a report released Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Full story

October 27, 2014

Estimated Cost of ISIS War: $1 Billion and Rising

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Thick smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani as Turkish soldiers stand guard on the Turkish side of the border during fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish People’s Protection Unit forces, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province Oct. 26. (Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images)

A spending watchdog group, using a conservative estimate, figures that the cost of the operation against ISIS has ticked past $1 billion. And the estimate for daily costs just got revised by the Pentagon. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 11:58 a.m.
Terrorism, War

Navy Birthday, IAEA & John Kerry in the Week Ahead

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John Negroponte in a 2012 file photo. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Iraq, Iran, ISIS — all of those are the subject of events in Washington, D.C., this week, along with the subjects in the headline, Ukraine and much more. Full story

October 23, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: Battleship Musashi Triggers a Tsunami

That video of a Littoral Combat Ship launch (h/t) from the weekend feels like it should cause more of a splash, literally. Once upon a time, there was a ship that caused much more than a splash — the subject of this week’s Throwback Thursday. Full story

New Things We Know About the Senate Intelligence Interrogation Report


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Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on April 1. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Thanks to some dandy behind-the-scenes reporting from the Huffington Post and McClatchy, we’re learning a great deal about the long-delayed, much-disputed Senate Intelligence Committee report on the interrogation and detention practices under President George W. Bush. It’s a good thing, because with the way things are going, the public probably won’t see the report itself anytime soon. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:53 a.m.

October 22, 2014

Globalization and ‘The End of the Military-Industrial Complex’

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Lynn, as deputy secretary of Defense, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in an undated photo. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)

William J. Lynn III, the former No. 2 at the Department of Defense, has published a piece in Foreign Affairs headlined “The End of the Military-Industrial Complex.” It is not that his case should be ignored or otherwise discounted; it’s well worth reading. But it does require a caveat, which is mentioned at the end of this post. Full story

Americans Support ISIS Fight, Just Don’t Think It’s Doing Anything

A majority of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center back the U.S. campaign against ISIS. However, they don’t really think the campaign is working.

The new poll, released Wednesday, finds that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans approve of the campaign — 57 percent in all. Only a third, however, think it’s going well.

The poll also finds that there are real doubts about the goals of the United States and its allies, and that 73 percent of those Americans polled don’t think U.S. allies are doing enough.

The two parties are very split on whether they are worried about the level of U.S. involvement in going after ISIS — 57 percent of Democrats are worried about going overboard, and 63 percent of Republicans are worried that the United States won’t go far enough. In particular, Democrats oppose sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria (66 percent), while Republicans favor it (57 percent). Independents align more closely with Democrats on both counts.


By Tim Starks Posted at 12:48 p.m.
Terrorism, War

Coburn Wastebook: Iron Man Suit, FEMA Golf Courses, Navy Magazines

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Sen. Tom Coburn on Jan. 14. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (@tomcoburn) is out with his final edition of his annual Wastebook of government spending, and besides the massages for rabbits and money to watch grass grow, a variety of Defense Department projects and other national security-related programs get the Oklahoma Republican’s sardonic smack. Full story

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