The Kearns Group Daily Defense Update with 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 updates. 

THE SENATE'S UP NEXT: "The House passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill Wednesday that would stave off shutdown scares and fund the government at updated levels through the end of September.

"The legislation, which was passed on a 309-118 vote, now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved and signed by President Donald Trump before a Friday deadline. Congress was supposed to have finished its spending work for the fiscal year seven months ago.

"Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are celebrating the deal, which would achieve a more sweeping update of federal funding levels than they had previously anticipated possible. The compromise struck over the weekend provides $2 billion in new spending for the National Institutes of Health and permanently extends expiring health insurance benefits to retired coal miners."

HOUSE REPUBLICANS RALLY AGAINST DEFENSE CAPS: "Scores of House Republicans led by Mike Turner are urging House leaders to take "immediate action" to repeal the caps on defense spending set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

"In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan 141 Republican lawmakers committed to supporting legislation repealing the budget caps. Turner, a senior House Armed Services member who has organized letters calling for higher defense spending in previous years, said he expects the high number of signatures will build momentum toward a vote to repeal the caps.

"'This 140 presents ... a clear win for leadership if they move forward on Donald Trump's call for repealing sequestration,' Turner said Wednesday."

TOP DOCS — TRUMAN PROJECT OPPOSES TRUMP'S LATEST PICK FOR ARMY SECRETARY: More than 80 members of the Truman National Security Project urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to reject the president's pick for Army secretary, Mark Green.

Citing Green's previous comments against the LGBTQ community, the group writes in a letter that "the secretary of the Army must embody the values of the organization he or she leads. We regret that Mr. Green fails this baseline requirement."

AS HOUSE REPUBLICANS URGE CONFIRMATION: A bloc of House Republicans is urging Senate leaders to push to confirm Green.

But in a letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 11 GOP lawmakers called Green, who has not been formally nominated for the post, "a dedicated public servant with a long record of distinguished accomplishments in defense of the nation."

The Senate sets a vote on Monday for Heather Wilson's nomination to be Air Force secretary

And SASC tees up nomination hearings for the Pentagon's comptroller and cost assessment offices

HAPPENING TODAY — SENATE TURNS TO SOCOM: Following their appearance in the House, U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Raymond Thomas and his civilian counterpart Acting Assistant Defense Secretary for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Theresa Whelan brief the full Senate Armed Services Committee.

TRUMP TO ABBAS: LET'S MAKE A DEAL: "President Donald Trump on Wednesday vowed to help broker a long-sought peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, promising that 'we will get this done.'

"Accompanied by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who visited the president at the White House on Wednesday, Trump offered to lend his self-proclaimed deal-making skills to finding a solution that has escaped his predecessors for decades.

"'I'm committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement, but any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States or by any other nation. The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship and thrive and prosper in peace,' Trump said."

And Abbas describes the talks as positive, even if short on specifics, adds The Associated Press.

EX-NUKE COMMANDERS LAUNCH 'CRISIS' GROUP TO EDUCATE TRUMP: "A global coalition of former military leaders and diplomats who had responsibility over nuclear weapons is launching a 'shadow security council' to offer advice to world leaders on how to reduce what they consider to be the growing danger of a nuclear conflict fueled by the rhetoric of President Donald Trump and destabilizing moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin...

"Their aims include offering public and private advice in real time to Trump's team and leaders of other governments in the hope their collective credentials will make officials listen — and take concrete steps to avoid escalation and make a nuclear exchange, whether accidental or on purpose, less likely."

TILLERSON TURNS UP THE DIAL ON NORTH KOREA, via The Washington Post: "The Trump administration is just at the beginning stages of its campaign to pressure North Korea to give up developing nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told State Department employees Wednesday morning in a wide-ranging discourse on applying "America first" principles to foreign policy.

"Tillerson said the administration is 20 percent to 25 percent of its way into a strategy that includes preparing more sanctions against government officials and individuals, convincing other countries to apply existing U.N. sanctions more rigorously and 'leaning hard' on China to use its influence to get North Korea to change direction.

"'It's a pressure campaign that has a knob on it,' he said to a packed auditorium of employees while thousands of others watched his remarks via live stream. 'We're at dial setting five or six now.'"

And North Korea lashes out at China as its neighbor also ratchets up the pressure on Kim Jong Un's regime, writes The Wall Street Journal.

AND SO DOES THE U.S. AIR FORCE WITH A NEW MISSILE TEST, reports The Air Force Times: "An unarmed missile capable of sending a nuclear bomb across the world was launched Wednesday from a coastal California military base amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

"The unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off from a silo at 12:02 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base and delivered a single re-entry vehicle to a target about 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) away at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, the Air Force Global Strike Command said. 

"The test took 10 months to plan. It was the latest aimed at checking the readiness and accuracy of a weapon system that forms part of the U.S. nuclear force."

WAR REPORT — U.S. FORCES PHOTOGRAPHED OPERATING NEAR PKK, reports The Military Times: "U.S. forces conducting patrols to deter aggression between Turkish forces and Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces, both partners in the fight against the Islamic State, were photographed at a funeral April 29 where flags of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a U.S.-designated terror group, could be seen in the crowd. 

"For more than 30 years, the PKK has been involved in an armed struggle against the Turkish government in an attempt to secure self-determination for Kurds in Turkey.

"The funeral in Derik, a small town in Syria's northeastern corner, was held for Syrian Kurd fighters of the People's Protection Units, or YPG, who were killed in Turkish airstrikes launched last week."

As Marines arm Kurdish allies with "clever messages," writes Stars and Stripes.

TOP DOC — EYEING POTENTIAL SECURITY-ASSISTANCE CUTS: The president could cut security-assistance programs that saw growth in recent years, the Security Assistance Monitor writes in a new report, including the Foreign Military Finance program.

PUTIN PUSHES SYRIA SAFE ZONES, via The Washington Post: "Russian President Vladimir Putin expanded a diplomatic blitz over the war Syria on Wednesday, meeting with Turkey's president as the Kremlin pushes a proposal to create 'deconfliction zones' in Syria with apparent U.S. support.

"The talks with Turkish Prime Minister Reçep Tayyip Erdogan reflect possible growing cooperation between nations once deeply at odds over Syria's conflict — with Turkey backing rebel factions and Russia providing key military support to Syria's government."

FOR YOUR RADAR - DoD SEEKS FACILITIES FUNDING: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told Congress the administration's fiscal 2018 budget request will seek new investments in the military's aging infrastructure.

Work acknowledged that Defense Department facilities have suffered "without question" under tight budgets. But he said that the administration's fiscal 2018 budget request, set to be released later this month, will try to fix it.

AND THE COAST GUARD CONSIDERS ARMED ICE BREAKERS: "The Coast Guard will consider arming future ice breakers with weapons as the Arctic becomes more militarized, Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said...

"'What might an icebreaker of the 21st century need to do?' Zukunft asked at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum. 'You might want to reserve space, weight and power where you have defensive and offensive armed capability as a military service.'

"Zukunft noted that Russia recently announced plans to launch two new ice-breaking corvettes armed with cruise missiles as they continue to build a strategic advantage in the region."

PENTAGON: HELP WANTED, writes Government Executive: "The Defense Department has lifted its hiring freeze, several weeks after President Trump ended the moratorium across government, but the Pentagon is still taking a cautious approach to bringing in new employees as it prepares to reshape its operations.

"Defense Secretary James Mattis sent the memorandum to the department Wednesday, which will immediately allow hiring to commence."

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