WASHINGTON: Congress seems increasingly resigned to sequestration cuts and base closures, ideas which once met fierce rejection on Capitol Hill. That’s the counterintuitive takeaway from Chuck Hagel’s first hearing as Defense Secretary on the 2014 budget request, one largely overtaken by events.
The weary notes that legislators struck on the budget probably had something to do with the nearly four-hour session required to take questions from almost 60 HASC members on everything from the new Distinguished Warfare Medal to missile defense against North Korea — and even then not everyone on the committee got a turn. But there’s a much deeper layer of exhaustion, one that comes from two years of budget gridlock. What once seemed intolerable now looks inevitable. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: In his first major address as Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel paid homage to the usual pieties — but he also, very cautiously, laid the groundwork for two unpopular policies: seeking greater cooperation with China, including controversial “mil-to-mil” exchanges of military officers; and controlling the costs of pay and benefits for military personnel, the proverbial third rail of defense spending debates.
The Budget: Back into battle over pay and benefits
Most of the instant analysis of Hagel’s address at National Defense University focused on the big picture of budget cuts. The President’s budget request for 2014, much delayed by gridlock over 2013 spending, will finally be rolled out one week from today — but since it apparently does not account for the “sequestration” cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, it is likely to be more than usually dead on arrival on Capitol Hill. Keep reading →
Pete Hegseth, an Army National Guard infantry officer who has served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, is a member of Concerned Veterans for America. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The United States is still the world’s indispensable nation and we’ll probably avoid sequestration, albeit by the skin of our teeth. That’s the modestly reassuring message from the unlikely duo of Michèle Flournoy, who recently left her job as under secretary of defense for policy, and Dov Zakheim, Pentagon comptroller under George W. Bush. Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: Apologizing to Pakistan, the economic impact of sequestration, and the possibility of a cyber-war “Pearl Harbor” dominated today’s hearing of the defense panel of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations committee.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein — who also chairs the intelligence committee — asks Defense Secretary Leon Panetta why we couldn’t just apologize to Pakistan for the errant airstrikes that killed Pakistani troops and thereby end the long wrangle over reopening supply lines to Afghanistan, which Islamabad closed after the bloody incident. A breakthrough had appeared imminent on the eve of the NATO summit in Chicago, only for negotiations to collapse. Keep reading →
THE CAPITOL [updated 9:40 pm with details from Senate press release]: The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously passed its mark-up of the annual defense spending bill, rejecting all proposed cuts to the Air National Guard, cutting the Defense Department’s civilian and contractor workforce by 5 percent over five years, and restricting aid to Pakistan.
The bill is silent on detention of terrorist suspects. Keep reading →