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Posts in "Budget"
August 15, 2014
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.
August 13, 2014
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.
July 30, 2014
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.
July 23, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
July 16, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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
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