Daily Defense Update With The Kearns Group and Tripp Skipper

We pull the most important aviation news coming out of Washington D.C. each day and compiled it in one spot. Check back daily for the latest headlines.


TOP NEWS —

DRIVING THE WEEK — CONGRESS TACKLES THE NDAA AND DEFENSE SPENDING: It's a jam-packed defense week, with the House and Senate Armed Services and House Appropriations panels working through myriad defense issues.

HASC marks up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act in an all-day (and potentially all-night) session. Ahead of Wednesday's markup, Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) plans to officially release his full NDAA committee mark today. 

The bill authorizes a $621 billion base defense topline, which tracks to an emerging deal from the House Budget Committee, but is less than the $640 billion advocated by Thornberry and other defense hawks. But it also includes an extra $10 billion in war funding specifically to supplement the base budget.

Other highlights:

More fighters, planes and helicopters: The bill includes an extra $2.2 billion for more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. It also adds $591 million to procure more Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The measure also authorizes $507 million more than requested for P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft and $355 million more for KC-130J tankers. And it includes extra funding for Army helicopters, including $286 million for additional UH-60 Blackhawks, $355 million for CH-47 Chinooks and $316 for more AH-64 Apaches.

Bigger shipbuilding budget: The chairman's mark has an extra $6 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding for Navy shipbuilding programs, including $1.9 billion for a destroyer, $1.8 billion for an extra amphibious ship, $1 billion for the Littoral Combat Ship and $635 million for an expeditionary sea base.

More troops, more pay: An extra $206 million is included to fund a higher military pay raise than requested and an extra $1 billion in OCO funds to increase the Army by 17,000 active-duty and Reserve troops.

Shifting EDI to base budget: The chairman's mark also realigns the European Deterrence Initiative (formerly the European Reassurance Initiative) from the OCO account to the base Pentagon budget. The NDAA also requires a future plan for EDI from the Pentagon, including an assessment of permanently stationing troops in Eastern Europe.

MEANWHILE, HOUSE REPUBLICANS NEAR $621 BILLION DEFENSE BUDGET DEAL: "The House Budget Committee is nearing an agreement with defense hawks to advance its long-awaited budget resolution next week, a GOP aide familiar with the talks confirmed Saturday.

"The House GOP's tentative deal would cap base defense spending at $621 billion for fiscal year 2018 — the same level proposed by budget-writers last week, but with a $10 billion boost to war spending. The budget committee would also agree to raise defense levels by 5 percent annually over the next three years.

"As part of the compromise, the House Budget Committee bumped up its request for mandatory cuts through reconciliation. The committee will now seek $200 billion in cuts over 10 years, up from $150 billion. The dispute over defense spending remains the key sticking point as the House Budget Committee aimed to release its markup [this] week."

Quotable: Defense Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) when asked if she plans to personally speak to Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) about defense spending, per our colleague Sarah Ferris:

"I don't meet with the Budget Committee, I just pray for them."

SASC TO MARK TO $700 BILLION DEFENSE TOPLINE: The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to mark its version of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to $700 billion.

The bill would authorize $640 billion in the base defense budget and $60 billion for OCO. The base budget proposed by the Senate would include $5 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative, which in past years has been funded through OCO.

— SUBCOMMITTEE MARKS BEGIN TODAY: SASC subcommittees hold their markups of the NDAA beginning this afternoon and wrapping up Tuesday morning. The panel's schedule has been accelerated, so the majority of subcommittee markups will now take place today. All are closed.

The full SASC begins marking up its bill on Tuesday morning — a day earlier than originally planned. SASC's multiday markup will continue at 7 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday and, if need be, Friday.

The early start time allows the markup to continue even if Democrats opposing a GOP Obamacare replacement attempt to block other Senate business using the so-called "two-hour rule," which requires both parties to consent to committee meetings that take place two hours or more after the Senate goes into session.

HAPPENING TONIGHT — HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE MARKS DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS: The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee holds its closed markup of the fiscal 2018 defense appropriations bill.

The legislation, released Sunday, allocates $584 billion for the base Pentagon budget and an extra $74 billion in war funding. It appears to conform to the emerging House Budget Committee framework calling for $621 billion in national defense spending.

— ALSO TODAY, INDIA'S MODI AT THE WHITE HOUSE, reports The Washington Post: "Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet for the first time with President Trump at the White House on Monday, part of a two-day 'no-frills' visit to the capital that will include little of the pomp of the prime minister's earlier trips during the Obama administration.

"The White House said the two leaders will seek to advance "common priorities" for the U.S.-India partnership, a list that includes fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region."

Meanwhile, the State Department is in the final stages of clearing the sale of 22 MQ-9B drones to India, under the expectation the Trump administration will announce the sale during Modi's visit, writes Defense News.

THE OTHER TREATY ON TRUMP'S CHOPPING BLOCK: "A fierce debate is brewing inside the Trump administration over whether to withdraw from another international treaty — this one a cornerstone disarmament pact with Russia banning an entire class of nuclear missiles.

"The Russian military in February was accused yet again of violating the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, by deploying a battalion of banned weapons on Europe's periphery. The Obama administration first reported in 2014 Russia had tested the banned missile.

"Leading Republican hawks are pushing legislation to compel Trump to take steps to develop new missiles in response — the first steps to jettisoning what is known as the INF treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mihkail Gorbachev."

WAR REPORT — COMMANDO RAIDS ON ISIS YIELD VITAL DATA, reports The New York Times: "One late afternoon in April, helicopter-borne American commandos intercepted a vehicle in southeastern Syria carrying a close associate of the Islamic State's supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"The associate, Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, was a rare prize whom United States Special Operations forces had been tracking for months: a midlevel but highly trusted operative skilled in raising money; spiriting insurgent leaders out of Raqqa, the Islamic State's besieged capital in Syria; and plotting attacks against the West. Captured alive, Mr. Uzbeki could be an intelligence bonanza."

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Syrian groups advance in the drive toward Raqqa, writes Reuters.

— TOP DOC — MCCAIN AND REED SEEK REVIEW OF TORTURE ALLEGATIONS: "Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) requested Thursday that the Pentagon immediately begin a review of alleged abuses by United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces against men captured in counterterrorism operations, as well as alleged U.S. involvement in the abuse.

"The request follows a report by The Associated Press that Emirati forces and their Yemeni partners have tortured hundreds of men captured during operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The AP report also alleges that U.S. military personnel provided questions to Emirati and Yemeni interrogators — although they were not directly involved in the abuse."

— BAGHDADI DEAD OR ALIVE? Writes the NYT: "On the same day the Pentagon announced it had killed yet another Islamic State leader that few Americans have heard of, Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr Al-Rawi, American officials also said they do not know if the Islamic State's most well-known name, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still alive.

"Officials cautioned that they have no evidence that Mr. Baghdadi is dead. But the dueling narratives illustrate the plodding nature of the Defense Department's fight against the militant Sunni Islamic extremist group, which is, after almost three years of airstrikes, on the back foot in both Iraq and Syria."

— TRUMP DISSOLVES AF-PAK UNIT: "The Trump administration [Friday] moved to eliminate the State Department unit responsible for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan — transferring its duties to a regional bureau whose leadership ranks have been decimated.

"The development came with less than a day's notice. It deeply rattled U.S. officials who say the shift leaves unclear who is responsible for handling diplomacy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time when the Trump administration is considering ramping up military efforts in that region."

TILLERSON URGES AN END TO GULF-ARAB RIFT, via The Washington Post: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday criticized some of the demands by Saudi Arabia and its allies on Qatar as "very difficult" to meet and urged the countries to tamp down the rhetoric and start negotiating.

"The statement by Tillerson was his first response to a sweeping list of 13 demands leaked to the Associated Press on Friday. The ultimatum gave Qatar 10 days to shut down the Arabic news network Al Jazeera, halt all contact with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, reduce cooperation with Iran and oust Turkish troops from Qatar. In addition, it would be required to undergo monthly checks to ensure it is complying."

Still, Qatar dismisses the demands as the diplomatic spat drags on, writes The Wall Street Journal.

Turkey rejects the terms made to Qatar, reports the AP.

And Iran's Rouhani does too, adds Reuters.

SCHIFF CRITICIZES OBAMA'S HANDLING OF RUSSIA 2016 CAMPAIGN MEDDLING: "The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee criticized Barack Obama for the president's response to intelligence reports that the Russian president was working to elect Donald Trump.

"Rep. Adam Schiff, speaking on CNN, was asked about Friday's report in The Washington Post that said Obama was told in August 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin was working to elect the Republican nominee.

"'The [Obama] administration needed to call out Russia earlier, and needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier, and I think that was a very serious mistake,' Schiff told Dana Bash on 'State of the Union.' 'The Obama administration should have done more when it became clear that not only was Russia intervening, but it was being directed at the highest levels of the Kremlin.'"

And Trump says the public should focus on Obama's Russia decisions during the 2016 presidential campaign, not Trump.

INDUSTRY INTEL — LOCKHEED MEETS WITH GERMAN OFFICIALS ON F-35, reports Defense News: " During the Paris Air Show [last] week, German government officials met with Lockheed Martin to talk about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a source connected to the program told Defense News.

"It is not uncommon for potential customers — including Germany — to engage with the defense industry on a number of platforms or technologies, nor does the meeting indicate a significant step forward in the process of selling the F-35 to Germany, the source said.

"However, the air show marked the first time the German government and Lockheed had ever discussed the F-35 specifically, albeit in an unclassified setting, he said."

 


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