A Navy F-35C conducts its first-ever arrested landing aboard the carrier USS Nimitz

WASHINGTON: The conference version of the defense policy bill for 2016 puts the Navy on notice in multiple high-priority programs. In three areas — carriers, the UCLASS drone, and LCS — Sen. John McCain‘s tough positions prevailed over the House, albeit with some compromises around the edges. In a fourth — Ticonderoga-class cruisers — it was a House leader,… Keep reading →


CAPITOL HILL: The balance of power between the Office of Secretary of Defense and the four service chiefs shifted to the uniformed leaders today as details began to seep out about the annual defense policy bill. The House-Senate conference on the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act largely enshrined what Sen. John McCain wanted as part of… Keep reading →

Sen. John McCain at US Capitol

CAPITOL HILL: Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees take pride in the fact their panels have gotten 53 annual defense bills in a row through the often tortuous negotiations required to clear Congress. And Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has often made known his view that the… Keep reading →

John McCain

UPDATED with Thornberry response CAPITOL HILL: The $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 passed the Senate by a vote of 71 to 25 today. The final version could emerge from a House-Senate conference in “early July,” Senate Armed Services chairman Jon McCain said boldly at a press conference this afternoon. That would be… Keep reading →

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) after Thursday evening's press conference on the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015.

THE CAPITOL: “We do emphasize readiness,” Sen. Carl Levin told me. “I for one would rather have a smaller force that is ready than a bigger force that is less ready.” With those words — his parting shot as I hounded him through the Capitol’s marble halls after his official press conference yesterday on the… Keep reading →

The U.S. aerospace industry got an early Christmas present this week, when House and Senate conferees approved defense authorization legislation that gives the President discretion to determine export jurisdiction for satellites. The legislation next will be voted on by the full Congress, and signed by the President. That process will conclude a necessary-but-not-sufficient, long-awaited first step in reviving the health and competitiveness of an industry critical to U.S. national security, but long crippled by political shenanigans that make it difficult to believe there won’t be attempts to derail this move toward rationality.

It is sadly evocative that titles of articles on government acquisition and satellite export control reform — two different but related areas similarly bogged down in efforts that have heretofore gone nowhere — sometimes descriptively include terms from fantasy or horror movies. For example, my own 2000 article on satellite export control, “Alice in Licenseland,” referenced a satellite export licensing variation of an impossible and often-scary imaginary journey. Louis V. Victorino’s 2011 article on data rights in the acquisition process was titled “Frankenstein’s Monster.” Keep reading →

[Updated Friday 12/21] CAPITOL HILL: It looks like the country’s getting a defense bill for Christmas, with provisions on everything from boosting cybersecurity to sanctioning Iran to loosening export controls on satellites.

In what passes for high efficiency in Congress these days, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees completed their conference on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 only two and a half months after the start of fiscal ’13 and just two weeks before sequestration may make many of their carefully wrought compromises moot. Keep reading →

[Updated and corrected 11:45 pm] WASHINGTON: The powerful National Guard Association of the US today denounced an unnamed “handful of House Armed Services Committee members” who, it says, are trying to use the ongoing House-Senate conference on the National Defense Authorization Act to reinstate cuts to the Air National Guard. The Air Force proposed reducing Guard personnel and planes in its 2013 budget, but both chambers roundly rejected the cuts in their versions of the NDAA passed earlier this year and forbade the Air Force from retiring almost any aircraft.

[Updated: It’s notoriously hard to learn exactly what’s happening in conference, but one House staffer told Breaking Defense that “the Guard Association’s release is based, at best, on rumor and incomplete information.”] Keep reading →