KICKING THE CAN: While relieved that Congress avoided a highly disruptive shutdown of the federal government by approving another short-term continuing resolution, the Pentagon continues to bemoan the cumulative effects of continually kicking the can just a bit farther down the road. “The department has been under a CR for the past 9 years, for 1,081 days,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said yesterday. “Nothing's had a greater impact on combat readiness than CRs.” Hours later, Congress voted to extend the current CR by two weeks. Until a real budget deal is struck, the Pentagon and the rest of the federal government, cannot spend any more money this year than it did last year on any particular program. Even another two-week delay has real consequences, Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist told reporters yesterday.
For example, America’s long-running wars have depleted the stockpiles of bombs and missiles used to battle the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, and the proposed new budget includes money to ramp up production of high-demand munitions to replenish the inventory. But Norquist says as long as spending is frozen at last year’s levels, that initiative cannot begin. “Commanders asked for it. The secretary signed off on it. [The Office of Management and Budget] and the White House submitted it, and if you have seen the congressional marks, they have been very supportive of the administration's budget,” Norquist said. “What the CR says is stop, wait. Don’t award that contract yet, which delays when you begin to increase the quantity and the production.”
That has two negative consequences: the Pentagon cannot meet the demands of its combatant commanders, and the companies that make the munitions have to delay hiring the workers, which has an impact on the larger economy.
EXACTLY, SAYS McCAIN: While the stopgap budget measure zipped through Congress yesterday, it did so without the support of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Every day we spend on a continuing resolution is a day that our military must try to do more with less, modernization is delayed, and readiness is degraded. For that reason, I cannot support this continuing resolution,” Sen. John McCain said. McCain had been cagey about how he might vote, saying “depends on what’s in it.” The measure gives Congress until Dec. 22 to strike a deal to raise defense caps and decide whether it will fully fund the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which McCain spearheaded along with Rep. Mac Thornberry, who agreed to the stopgap measure but has said he will not support another extension.
MAKING NICE, IF NOT PROGRESS: At the beginning of yesterday’s budget summit at the White House, everyone was on their best behavior, at least as long as the cameras were on. No mention of last week’s boycott by Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. “We hope we can come to an agreement. Funding the government is extremely important. Helping our soldiers is very important, and helping average citizens is very important,” Schumer said. “So we're here in the spirit of, let's get it done.” Pelosi thanked President Trump for the opportunity to come to the White House. “We are here to make progress,” she said. “We're here to reach a bipartisan agreement to finish out the year, and I'm glad that you invited us, and happy to be here,” said Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell. “Glad we're here to resume the conversations,” added House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE DoD BUDGET: Congress is working to reach a deal to raise a $549 billion baseline defense budget cap and set all topline spending levels for 2018 before Christmas. But Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it will be a “coin toss” on whether lawmakers blow that deadline and end up passing another continuing resolution into January. “They have to get 60 votes in the Senate to raise the cap and Democrats are going to insist on something on the non-defense side of the budget,” Harrison said.
Striking a deal will also depend on what policy riders are added into the negotiations, he said. Legislation for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, funding for Trump’s border wall, and Obamacare could all complicate the effort. “They have to reach an agreement on all of those things and if they can do that, then they can get an increase in the defense cap put in there,” he said. Harrison and Seamus Daniels, a CSIS research assistant and program coordinator, released their new report, “Analysis of the FY18 Defense Budget,” on Thursday that looks at the spending possibilities. You can read the full report here.
Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.
HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is on the president’s schedule for this afternoon. Mattis is just back from consulting with U.S. allies in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Kuwait. Yesterday, both Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (in his civilian garb) were spotted at the Pentagon. White said Pence was just dropping by to catch up. “He was here to have lunch. Just a routine meeting,” she said.
WINSLOW IN LIMBO: Dean Winslow knew he was stepping into it at his confirmation hearing last month, but he stepped into it anyway, and now he’s having trouble stepping out of it. Several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are in no mood to lift their hold on the Trump Pentagon nominee, who criticized U.S. gun laws as “insane” and advocated well-staffed military facilities for “therapeutic abortion services” during his confirmation hearing. It is not the first time the committee has held up Trump nominees.
Winslow, a Stanford University medical professor and close friend of Mattis, has apparently tried in vain to smooth things over. “He sent a correction letter to try to clear up comments that he made and there’s still members of the committee that have concerns,” McCain told the Washington Examiner.
Here is what Winslow, nominated to run the military health system, said when asked about domestic violence convictions and the November church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas: “I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used.”
McCain said he was uncertain whether Winslow’s nomination would eventually be reported by Armed Services to the full Senate for a confirmation vote, and noted that members have the ability to hold nominations indefinitely. “Members of the committee, they can say that they don’t want the committee to report out their names,” he said.
ACQUISITION SHAKEUP: Defense Department acquisition chief Ellen Lord says there is a staffing shakeup coming for department personnel overseeing weapons purchasing programs. A review of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and military services is already underway and looking at whether the department has “the right people in the right slots,” Lord said during an appearance at the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I will take action if there are issues, no question about it,” Lord said. “There are constraints when you come into a government job, you cannot move anybody for 120 days and if you check on my 120 days it was just very recently. … I think you should expect to see some movements.” Lord acknowledged the review and possible ousting of poor performers after facing tough questioning from McCain about government waste.
“There is no penalty for failure,” McCain told the Pentagon panel at the hearing. “For example, the $6 billion Future Combat Systems that never worked, can you tell me an individual or individuals that paid a penalty for that failure?” Lord offered to come to McCain’s office to brief him in private on what she said were actions taken over the past few months but the chairman was unsatisfied with that answer and warned her to bring examples the next time she testifies before Armed Services. “Sir, excuse me. I want to be on record,” Lord responded. “We hold people responsible and we will talk about that.” Then McCain again threw the question out to the rest of the panel of top Pentagon officials. “Who is it that's been fired?” he asked, waiting during a pause. “Any answer? No.” Army Secretary Mark Esper, who was confirmed Nov. 15 and also on the panel with Lord, offered the only response. “Senator, I'm not aware of anyone being fired for [Future Combat Systems], to your point. We completely agree,” Esper said.
SEEKING RELIEF ON TRANSGENDER RECRUITS: The Trump administration is asking a federal judge for an emergency order allowing Mattis to delay transgender military enlistments that are set to begin on Jan. 1. The Pentagon was ordered last week by D.C. circuit court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to begin enlistments and commissioning at the beginning of next year despite Trump’s order to abandon the plans and phase out open service by those troops. The motion filed by the Department of Justice in the Doe v. Trump lawsuit requests a decision on the request by Monday. Plaintiffs in the case, who include active-duty transgender troops, will oppose the emergency stay requested by the Justice Department, said Shannon Minter, a lead attorney and legal director for National Center for Lesbian Rights.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: Still no ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ for U.S. passports, reports Joel Gehrke. The State Department confirmed yesterday that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel won’t be reflected on State Department documents, including passports, anytime soon. “There has been no change in our policy with respect to consular practice or passport issuance at this time,” David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters Thursday. “We recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Jerusalem, but we are not changing or taking a position on the boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem, including geographic boundaries,” Satterfield said.
It’s the latest example of how the Trump administration is downplaying the announcement that the president continues to tout as a big deal. Just after midnight, Trump tweeted a video montage of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel with the tagline “I fulfilled my campaign promise - others didn’t!”
Speaking in Vienna, Austria, yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also sought to soften the impact of the symbolic declaration. “The recognition is just a recognition of reality. All of Israel's government offices are largely in Jerusalem already, so the U.S. is just recognizing the reality of that,” Tillerson told reporters. “This does not in any way finalize the status of Jerusalem, that that's still up to the parties to discuss, and I think the President was very clear in that regard.”
PROTEST IN JORDAN: Hundreds of Jordanians chanted “Jerusalem is Arab” following Friday prayers in the center of the capital of Amman, the AP reports.
The demonstrators raised posters showing Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site. They chanted, “America is the head of the snake.”
WMD OFFICE: The Department of Homeland Security has announced the creation of a Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office to oversee federal efforts to prevent terrorists from using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons to attack the U.S. or its interests abroad.
"The United States faces rising danger from terrorist groups and rogue nation states who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans," DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. "That’s why DHS is moving towards a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action. As terrorism evolves, we must stay ahead of the enemy and the establishment of this office is an important part of our efforts to do so." James McDonnell, who has been serving as director of the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office since June, will oversee the new office.
TWEETPLOMACY: A group of House Democrats want the State Department to give an accounting of Trump’s Twitter activity and how it affects international diplomacy and security. Rep. Eliot Engel and 20 other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee have asked the State Department to brief them on several recent retweets by the president, who promoted a series of anti-Muslim videos published by a far-right British nationalist group. The lawmakers want details on the protest that State Department officials reportedly delivered to the White House.
“Specifically, we would like to know what concerns the State Department raised with the White House, to whom specifically those concerns were made known and when they were made known,” Engel, the top Democrat on the committee, wrote in a Wednesday letter released Thursday.
ISIS ‘ELECTRONIC GHOSTS’ THREATEN CYBER ATTACK: The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that the ISIS-affiliated “Electronic Ghosts Group of the Caliphate,” is threatening a campaign of cyber attacks to begin today. “Our first goals are the cursed United States. You are the first in line. You are the head of the snake, you pig worshippers,” said a video released on the messaging site Telegram. “We are the hackers of the Islamic State. The Electronic Ghosts Group of the Caliphate. We are a group of hackers that will penetrate the global sites of governments, military ministries, companies and sensitive global sites,” said a narrator in Arabic, using electronic voice distortion. “We declare the electronic war on all the piles [sic] of infidelity and apostasy that are fighting the Islamic State,” the video said.
RECOVERY EFFORT BEGINS: The Navy has announced it will try to recover the C-2A Greyhound aircraft that crashed in the Philippine Sea on the way to USS Ronald Reagan Nov. 22, along with the remains of three sailors who went down with it. It’s not an easy task because while the Navy knows where it went down, the ocean depth exceeds 16,000 feet, beyond the capabilities of most salvage assets.
So in the coming days, a special team of deep water salvage experts will deploy from Washington to link up with a Navy-contracted salvage vessel in Japan to begin the effort. “Once on station, highly skilled operators will search for the aircraft’s emergency relocation pinger,” said a statement from 7th Fleet. “If the search is successful, additional deep water salvage assets will deploy to survey and recover the aircraft. Every effort will be made to recover the fallen sailors,” the statement said.
Wall Street Journal: Palestinian Anger Erupts Over Trump Jerusalem Stance
UPI: Queen commissions British Royal Navy's largest ship
Stars and Stripes: Marines ready to deploy in wake of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement
New York Times: Tillerson Says the U.S. Will Never Accept Crimea Annexation
Defense News: Analyst: With ballooning costs for a smaller Navy, can it really afford 355 ships?
Military.com: Navy Wasted Enough on Continuing Resolutions to Buy F-35 Squadron
Military Times: National Guard troops activated to fight California wildfires
Marine Corps Times: US forces in Afghanistan on alert after Jerusalem announcement
Defense One: Pentagon’s Ambitious Goal: Launch a Weapons Program in Just 12 Months
AP: Queen Elizabeth Commissions Aircraft Carrier With Her Name
Star and Stripes: Pentagon Picks Commander To Lead Naval Forces On Korean Peninsula
FRIDAY | DEC. 8
8 a.m. 300 1st St. SE. The Mitchell Space Breakfast Series with Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command. mitchellaerospacepower.org
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty: Does it have a future? brookings.edu
11:30 a.m. 929 Long Bridge Dr. Missile defense luncheon. ndia.org
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave NE. The terrorist argument: Modern advocacy and propaganda. heritage.org
12 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Emerging challenges in cybersecurity: A conversation with former NATO Assistant Secretary General Sorin Ducaru. hudson.org
MONDAY | DEC. 11
9 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. U.S.-Korea defense acquisition and security cooperation. csis.org
5:30 p.m. Book discussion of “Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War it Starts?” with author Harlan Ullman. atlanticcouncil.org
TUESDAY | DEC. 12
8 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. CTTSO advanced planning briefing for industry. ndia.org
9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. U.S.-UK Relations in a changing world with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House national security advisor. policyexchange.org.uk
12 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum with Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce. atlanticcouncil.org
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Yemen: A country in crisis. cfr.org
1 p.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Live Power Problems podcast recording: “All I Want for Christmas is an F-35: Trump, the Generals and the Defense Budget.” cato.org
2 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Revisiting lessons of the Vietnam War. brookings.edu
5 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Book launch of “Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts.” csis.org
WEDNESDAY | DEC. 13
8 a.m. 1800 Jefferson Davis Hwy. Special topic breakfast with Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. navyleague.org
9:30 a.m. Dirksen 419. Using force: Strategic, political and legal considerations with Stephen Hadley, Christine Wormuth and John Bellinger. foreign.senate.gov
10 a.m. Russell 222. Update on research, diagnosis and treatment for traumatic brain injury and concussion in service members. armed-services.senate.gov
1 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Ballistic missile defense: Evolving threats and new priorities with Rear Adm. Jon Hill, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency. csis.org
1:45 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The future of combating terrorism and countering the use of WMD: A Conversation with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. hudson.org
3:30 p.m. Rayburn 2118. Addressing physiological episodes in fighter, attack and training aircraft Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, and Rear Adm. Sara Joyner.
6 p.m. 1250 S Hayes St. Aerospace Industries Association Lyman award dinner. aia-aerospace.org
THURSDAY | DEC. 14
7 a.m. 901 17th St. NW. S&ET executive breakfast. ndia.org
9:30 a.m. 1501 Lee Highway. Mitchell Hour on the operational National Guard, a unique and capable component of the joint force with Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. mitchellaerospacepower.org
10 a.m. Dirksen G-50 U.S. Policy and strategy in the Middle East. armed-services.senate.gov
11:30 a.m. 1250 S. Hayes St. Aerospace Industries Association media luncheon. aia-aerospace.org
12:30 p.m. 525 New Jersey Ave. NW. CNAS event: Toward a common North Korea strategy with Rep. Ami Bera. cnas.org
6:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW.D.C. Foreign Affairs November/December Issue Launch Guest Event: America's Forgotten Wars. cfr.org
FRIDAY | DEC. 15
11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Defeating terrorism in the age of Trump with Sebastian Gorka. heritage.org