Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 29, 2014

August 26, 2014

Should Congress Authorize Air Strikes in Syria?

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Kaine, at an April Senate Foreign Relations hearing. (Tom Williams, CQ Roll Call)

A pair of senior senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee want President Barack Obama to come to Congress for authorization of any air strikes in Syria targeting the group popularly known as ISIS, which has made big gains in Iraq. Others? Not so interested in Congress getting involved. Full story

August 21, 2014

How Obama Could Respond to James Foley’s Murder

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Royce, 2013 file photo. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama sent a tough message after an American journalist was murdered by the extremist group, Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), but the actions that the administration will take in response to the murder, and the timeline for them, are still not fully known.

But what are his options? Many of them range from vague to unlikely.

Full story

August 20, 2014

Russia as Biggest Threat to International Order (Even if It Doesn’t Mean It)

As international menaces go, the Islamic State group has stolen headlines from Russia, but that doesn’t mean Vladimir Putin has gone away as a threat. But how much of a threat is he, and why? Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:36 p.m.
Foreign Policy

August 18, 2014

Defense Philanthropy, Ukraine Vs. Russia in the Week Ahead

This is the slowest week event-wise of the August congressional recess so far, at least as it pertains to defense and national security. There are, however, a few items of note. Full story

August 15, 2014

Defense Industry Donations and the Alan Grayson Police Militarization Amendment

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A police officer watches over demonstrators protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 13 in Ferguson. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

With images of heavily armed police confronting protesters in Ferguson, Mo., sparking a national debate about police militarization, a campaign finance research organization has released a study showing how much defense industry money House members got before a June 19 vote that rejected Rep. Alan Grayson’s amendment to block military equipment transfers to local law enforcement. The organization, MapLight, found that those who voted against it got 73 percent more in defense industry donations than those who voted in favor.

But there are probably bigger reasons for the vote going the way it did. And the issue could come up again in Congress — Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., promised Friday to review the program before his committee’s fiscal 2015 defense policy bill comes to the floor; Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., has put forward new legislation; and others are calling for hearings. So it’s worth reviewing the motivations for those votes.

Full story

August 13, 2014

Where National Security Is (and Mainly, Isn’t) in 2014 Elections

IA POL14 063 080714 445x296 Where National Security Is (and Mainly, Isnt) in 2014 Elections

Braley helps out on the grill in the Pork Tent at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Aug. 7. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When Iraq popped up this week as an issue in the Iowa Senate race between Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst based on her comments about troop levels in recent years, it marked something rare: an occasion where a national security debate surfaced in the 2014 elections for purely national security reasons.

Despite a whole host of places around the globe where security is a rising topic in the news — Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Russia — defense and foreign policy has largely been on the sidelines in congressional races. Even when it has been debated, it has usually been  for other reasons, such as how it reflects on President Barack Obama’s performance. But because of that, and more, national security could still play a role in the 2014 elections.

Full story

August 12, 2014

Military Remembrances of Robin Williams

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Williams, center, laughs in the back stage during the entertaining 2010 performance of “Holiday Troop Visit” by U.S. celebrities for Christmas at boardwalk stage of the Kandahar Air Field. (Behrouz Mehri /AFP/Getty Images)

Legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams, who was found dead Monday from an apparent suicide, played an airman in “Good Morning Vietnam.” His connections to the military go beyond that, so much so that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others have remarked upon his passing. Full story

August 11, 2014

World War I, National Security Agency and Iran in the Week Ahead

It’s a week that’s heavy in the middle with defense and national security-related events. Full story

August 7, 2014

Defense, Security Companies Among Top 2014 Campaign Donors

The Center for Responsive Politics is keeping a running tally of which companies and organizations are best represented among 2014 donors to federal candidate campaigns. The newest updated list counts six companies with significant defense or security business among the top 50. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 1:39 p.m.
Personnel

August 6, 2014

The Stories Behind the Numbers on Afghan Translator Visas

Just before Congress left for recess last week, it did something rare: It worked across the aisle to quickly clear legislation that filled what the Obama administration had declared an urgent need: authorization of 1,000 additional special visas to bring over Afghan citizens who helped the United States during the war there.

But the number of so-called Special Immigrant Visas only tell part of the story. The way they are processed has also raised questions.

Three years after the United States went to war in Afghanistan, an 18-year-old Afghan man who goes by the nickname “Outback” decided to become an interpreter for the U.S. Armed Forces. He had some insight into that world since his brother, Humayoun, 31, had started working as a translator in 2003. But neither of them expected to leave Afghanistan because of their jobs.

After receiving death threats for working with the U.S. military, Humayoun applied for a Special Immigrant Visa in 2006. He had to leave Kabul for his safety and changed his cell phone number numerous times. Gunmen shot dead his friend’s father inside his home. Humayoun eventually received his visa. Now Outback is trying to come to the United States, too — unsuccessfully so far.

The tale of these two siblings signifies one of the lesser-discussed casualties of a decade of war: how vulnerable are Afghan citizens who helped the United States , and how hard it has been for many of them to get protective assistance from the U.S. government. Full story

By Aisha Chowdhry Posted at 11:38 a.m.
War

August 5, 2014

How Can the World Help Libya?

Syria and Iraq have spiraled out of control, and Libya feels like it could be next on the list, now that the United States and other countries have evacuated many of their diplomats and officials amid fighting between Islamists and those opposed to them. But the rest of the world doesn’t appear eager to intervene militarily in either Syria or Iraq, and any financial aid so far has been limited. So what could be done to help Libya, then? Full story

August 4, 2014

Defense Contracts, Gaza in the Week Ahead

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is underway, as discussed last week. Here is the full schedule of that, and a brief preview on the security angle. For some other events this week, read on.

Programming note: Even during the August congressional recess, we’ll still be posting here at Five By Five, just maybe less each day than usual. Don’t let that stop you from visiting frequently. Full story

August 1, 2014

DARPA Wants to Chop Military Materials Development Time From 10 to 2.5 Years

Say you’re trying to design a hypersonic plane. It will have to deal with shell temperatures of several thousands of degrees of steel-melting heat.

That’s where the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to start — with an “outer aerodynamic shell for a hypersonic vehicle that would glide through the atmosphere” — in testing a new development concept for speeding up the deployment of new military materials into the field. Full story

Space-Based Nuclear Detonation Detection Program Might Fall Short

The National Nuclear Security Administration dedicated $300 million from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013 for a space-based Nuclear Detonation Detection Program, used for, among other purposes, monitoring nuclear treaty compliance. (That’s kind of a hot issue with Russia right now.)

A new Energy Department inspector general report isn’t sure it will do what it’s supposed to with its current budget. Full story

July 31, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: Emus Rout Australian Army

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Emus excel at soccer, war. One in his enclosure at the Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen, central Germany on April 13 (Peter Steffen/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in 1932, emus were overrunning Western Australia to the point of plague. The military was called in to help. The emus pwned the military, the subject of this week’s Throwback Thursday. Full story

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