Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2014

Posts in "Budget"

July 30, 2014

$104.1 Billion Marked So Far for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Watchdog Says

Appropriations on the U.S. effort to rebuild Afghanistan have totaled $104.1 billion, not including the $5.8 billion requested for fiscal 2015 by the White House, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The latest quarterly report from SIGAR not only totals up the dollars allocated and spent, but examines a wide range of issues for the war-torn country.

Full story

July 23, 2014

Border Task Force Boosts National Guard Role; Others Less Enthused

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Granger at a hearing of her House Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs lat year. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

A House GOP border task forces recommended Wednesday that the National Guard be deployed to the southern border in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors entering the country, the same week Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced plans to use the Guard for just that. Others are less sure it’s the right answer. Full story

July 21, 2014

Taxpayer Group Knocks Senate Defense Spending Bill

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Pilots in a EA-18G Growler complete a nighttime, touch-and-go landing during Field Carrier Landing Practice for the Carrier Air Wing 5 of U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan on May 14. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Taxpayers for Common Sense found fault with the House’s fiscal 2015 Defense spending bill, and the group now has its share of gripes with the Senate’s $549.7 billion version, too, for spending money on programs the Defense Department doesn’t want and adding money beyond what the Obama administration requested. Full story

Medal of Honor Recipient Ryan Pitts, 9/11 Commission, VA Secretary in the Week Ahead

Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Pitts will be at the White House on Monday to receive a Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama. His story is both heroic and a tale of missteps by superiors, as he fought to fend off a wave of insurgents in Afghanistan in a patrol base in the bloody Battle of Wanat, all while badly wounded by shrapnel himself. Obama is awarding more Medals of Honor to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than his predecessor, but the process has become slower.

The week’s offerings also include a confirmation hearing for a new leader at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a review of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 Commission report and discussions on the cyber threat, the shape of U.S. Combatant Commands, Iraq and the Navy budget. Full story

July 18, 2014

Russian RD-180 Not the Only Rocket Worry on Capitol Hill

Concerns over the Defense Department’s reliance on the Russian RD-180 rocket engine are just one aspect of the Senate’s worries about foreign-supplied rocket propulsion methods and instances where the Pentagon is counting on one vendor. In a report on the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill the Appropriations Committee approved Thursday, the panel expresses dismay about the overall state of the United States’ ability to produce rocket motors and the department’s tendency to award sole-source contracts. Full story

July 17, 2014

War Is Hell: Skin Cancer, Epilepsy, Sleep Disorders on Rise for U.S. Troops

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Brad Schwarz, with his service dog Panzer, attends a Cubs game with a group of veterans at Wrigley Field in 2012. Schwarz uses Panzer to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder issues related to his 2008 tour in Iraq. In addition to suffering from PTSD, Schwarz has memory loss related to traumatic brain injury and he must walk with a cane because of vertebrae and nerve damage in his back and legs. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Each war brings with it unique injuries and health afflictions for those who fight. For Iraq and Afghanistan, improvised explosive devices have led to extensive traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs.

But those wounds aren’t the beginning and end of the kind of health problems this generation of the military is facing. Among those singled out by a Senate report: skin cancer, epilepsy, sleep disorders, hydrocephalus and chronic pain disorders. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:08 a.m.
Budget, Personnel, Veterans, War

July 16, 2014

War Funding Request Amid War Endings: Slush Fund, or Prudent Bridge?

Across the political spectrum — among anti-war liberals, among conservative budget hawks — there are those who argue that the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations account is simply a “slush fund” that needs to go away already, or at least be chopped down further, with the Iraq War officially over and the Afghanistan War on course to do the same.

One expert hailing from the conservative side of the spectrum is making the case that President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 request for the account is just right. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 2:49 p.m.
Budget, War

Senate Chops Request for New Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, White House Still Happy

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Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., whose Appropriations subcommittee scaled back the new counterterrorism partnership fund, arrives in the Capitol for a vote on June 24. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In a high-profile move earlier this year, President Barack Obama asked Congress for $5 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund that would be used to help other countries get better at fighting terrorist organizations. On Tuesday, a Senate panel agreed to give the administration less than half of what it sought. Yet the White House still welcomed this in an evening blog post. Full story

July 15, 2014

Everybody Picks on Military Readiness Because It’s Easy, Panel Chairman Says

Rep. Rob Wittman, who chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, says that the word “readiness” is a “term of art” where people “tangentially understand it, but don’t really understand that.” It also happens to be “the only area where you can quickly achieve savings” in the defense budget, since other programs have contracts attached to them that make it hard to get any short-term return with spending reductions.

That all makes it an easy place for lawmakers to seek cuts, the Virginia Republican said Tuesday at a breakfast with defense reporters. And he thinks it’s a bad idea, one that threatens to rear its head again as the defense budget continues to decline and as policymakers start to shoehorn more spending that is currently allocated via a war account back into the base budget. Full story

July 14, 2014

Constitutionality Debate Over Guantanamo Provision Sets Up House-Senate Fight

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A sign showing support for Bergdahl sits along Main Street in Hailey, Idaho, on June 2. He was released from captivity on May 31 in exchange for the freedom of five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The American Civil Liberties Union and a national security law professor say that when the GOP-controlled House added an amendment to the annual defense spending bill to prevent overseas prisoner transfers from the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base — a response to the prisoner exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — it endorsed language that was unconstitutional. The amendment was offered by a tea party-aligned lawmaker who has vowed to fight unconstitutional laws.

It’s not true that the Guantanamo provision is unconstitutional, though, answer a pair of GOP aides, as a Senate panel prepares to vote on its own take on the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill Tuesday morning. Full story

Can (or Should) the U.S. Train More Countries to Handle Their Own Threats?

450656810 445x263 Can (or Should) the U.S. Train More Countries to Handle Their Own Threats?

Army soldiers stand guard at a square in Bogota during the runoff presidential election on June 15. Colombians went to the polls in an election that had become a referendum on peace talks with leftist guerrillas, and reelected president Juan Manuel Santos. (Diana Sanchez/AFP/Getty Images)

War is expensive, and the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has a default disinclination against both foreign military intervention and government spending. So, on Monday, Cato hosted a panel that asked whether a better option in a time of declining defense budgets would be training more countries to deal with their own insurgencies.

The answer? It depends. Full story

Killer Robots, Outer Space and Defense Spending Bill in Week Ahead

There are three hearings this week on the president’s war-related spending account budget request and two committee votes on the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill. But, yes, killer robots and outer space are also on the agenda. Full story

July 10, 2014

Some ‘Told You So,’ Some Uncertainty on the F-35

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This picture taken Oct. 28, 2013, shows a model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II during a press day of the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition in Goyang. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

A mysterious F-35 engine fire, the grounding of the fleet, a visit from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel scheduled for Thursday and the resulting possible pullback from an international debut at a British air show have put the Joint Strike Fighter — the most expensive weapon system ever — in the, well, hot seat. Full story

July 9, 2014

Pentagon Claims Low Flubbed Payment Rate, Could Be Totally Wrong

The good news for the Department of Defense: By its own estimation, less than 1 percent of its payments are improper payments (to the wrong party, or of the wrong amount), which is better than the more than 3 percent rate government-wide, with improper payments by the feds adding up to $106 billion in the past fiscal year.

The bad news for the department: The Government Accountability Office “has grave reservations even about DOD’s ability to track and accurately report its improper payments,” John L. Mica, R-Fla., said at a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday. Full story

A Senator’s Argument for Arming Syrian Rebels, After the ISIS Surge

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Casey talks with Caroline Wadhams of the Center for American Progress during a March discussion titled “Afghan Elections and the U.S. Role Beyond 2014.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Back in 2011, Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey was the first senator to say that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. Much has changed since then. A rebellion against Assad has given rise to the group that now calls itself the Islamic State, and concerns have deepened about whether U.S. aid aimed at “good” Syrian rebels could end up in the wrong hands. Some have gone as far as to suggest that the United States has arrived at a common cause with Assad.

But Casey said now it is more important than ever to deliver arms and assistance to the Syrian rebels the United States can trust — and he’s also confident we can determine who exactly they are. Full story

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