Andrew Clevenger

Analysis: The Pentagon has a credibility problem, and it’s only getting worse
The Defense Department’s waffling on casualties from Jan. 8 Iran strike latest in a growing trend

Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief when, the morning after Iran’s Jan. 8 ballistic missile attack on Al Asad air base in Iraq, Defense Department leaders said there were “no casualties.” 

That initial assessment hasn't held up, and neither have the department's varying statements on the matter since then.

Freshman national security Democrats seize political moment

In the hours after the targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and with concern rapidly mounting about the potential for a direct military confrontation with Iran, several high-profile House liberals announced plans to constrain President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war.

But it was a lesser-known and more moderate freshman — Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst who did three tours in Iraq focusing on the country’s Iranian-backed Shiite militias — whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi ultimately tapped as the face of Democrats’ arguments for putting guardrails on Trump’s Iran strategy.

Congress unlikely to check Trump’s power to start war with Iran
The recent escalation will likely rekindle the debate over whether Trump has the power to battle Iran without Congress’ consent

Last year, months before the United States killed a senior Iranian commander in a dramatic escalation of tensions in the Middle East, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate voted to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran.

The language never actually made it into law, marking another defeat for lawmakers in both parties who have clamored to reassert Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war since the sweeping war authorizations of 2001 and 2002 that have been used to justify American military incursions since then.

Democrats ‘got completely rolled’ in NDAA talks, critics say
Litany of progressive provisions fails to make conference committee report

The final defense authorization measure for the current fiscal year represents a victory for Republicans.

That’s the word from a large number of angry Democrats in Congress, their supporters and, more discreetly, from many Republicans.

The perils of positive thinking
America’s optimism aside, Pentagon's track record of buying arms has been spotty since WWII

ANALYSIS — Americans like optimism. It goes hand in hand with the can-do spirit that saw industry transform itself into the juggernaut that powered the Allied victory in the Second World War.

The Defense Department’s overly optimistic approach to acquisition is a major factor behind that checkered performance. In part, that’s a reflection of military culture, where it is hard to tell a superior, especially one wearing stars on his or her shoulders, that a goal won’t be met.

Senate Democrats question Pentagon over protecting impeachment witnesses
Defense Department's No. 2 official also urged to protect anonymous whistleblowers from retribution

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump spilled over Wednesday into an unrelated Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing, where senators pressed the Defense Department’s second-highest official about protections for witnesses and whistleblowers.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., asked Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist about news reports that the Army was considering extra security for the family of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in the impeachment probe on Tuesday.

What to wear? Republicans flag Vindman's sartorial choice
As military officers do, the Army lieutenant colonel testified in his dress uniform

UPDATED | As part of their efforts to undermine Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony Tuesday in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Republicans raised the issue of him wearing his Army uniform while testifying.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, remarked upon Vindman’s attire during his time allotted for questions.

As NDAA talks drag on, Inhofe readies pared-down bill
Negotiators have largely stayed mum on unresolved conference issues

Pentagon caught in a political fight over impeachment inquiry
Defense officials have rejected congressional demands for information on withholding of Ukraine aid

ANALYSIS — Rather than stay out of the fray, the Defense Department has taken sides in a bitter and historic partisan brawl, choosing to fortify President Donald Trump’s stonewall rather than cooperate with Congress.

The Pentagon is a key player in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. And defense officials, who have until now been largely unscathed by the investigation, have rejected congressional demands for information about their role in the White House decision to withhold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Esper, other Defense Department officials not on Ukraine call, Pentagon says
Pentagon faces heightened scrutiny in aftermath of whistleblower complaint

No one from the Defense Department was listening in on President Donald Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said Thursday.

The Defense Department’s general counsel has advised Pentagon officials to preserve documents and communications relating to the Ukrainian security assistance program, Jonathan Hoffman said during a briefing with reporters. That move, however, was made out of an abundance of caution.

Thornberry retirement latest shakeup on House Armed Services Committee
Former chairman is sixth Republican to announce plans to retire from the committee

Rep. Mac Thornberry on Monday became the sixth Republican on the House Armed Services Committee to announce plans to retire at the end of this Congress, creating openings for ambitious younger members but also leaving a significant dearth of experience on the powerful panel.

Thornberry, a Texas Republican who spent two terms as Armed Services chairman before becoming ranking member after Democrats won control of the House, has been an ardent backer of higher Pentagon spending levels and a reliable hawk on policy matters ranging from the size of the Navy fleet to the nuclear arsenal.

Mac Thornberry joins Republican ‘Texodus’ from House
Top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee to retire rather than seek 14th term

Rep. Mac Thornberry is the latest Texas Republican to head for the exits, announcing Monday that he is not running for reelection. The 13-term lawmaker is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

Thornberry was facing GOP term limits on the committee, having served two previous terms as chairman before the start of the current Congress, where he became the ranking member after Democrats took over the House.

The art of the ask: Foreign aid isn’t a campaign ‘slush fund’
Trump’s Ukraine request deviates from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach

Arms sales and foreign aid have long been a part of the United States’ carrot-and-stick approach to foreign policy. But President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader is something entirely different.

Making access to American weapons or dollars contingent upon behaviors that support U.S. interests is standard procedure.

House votes to end national emergency on southern border
Senate passed measure earlier this week, but Trump all but certain to veto it.

The House voted Friday to end President Donald Trump’s national emergency along the southern border, but without a sufficient enough margin to overcome an all-but-certain veto.

With 11 Republicans joining them, 224 Democrats (and independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan) voted 236-174 to terminate the emergency, which Trump declared Feb. 15. All of the “no” votes came from Republicans.

2020 hopefuls ditch Senate vote to end border emergency in favor of trail
The Senate voted to end the southern border emergency declaration but without sufficient votes to override a presidential veto

The Senate voted Wednesday to end the national emergency declaration on the southern border but without sufficient votes to override an all-but-inevitable presidential veto.

Eleven Republicans joined 43 Democrats in support of ending the emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to repurpose $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction projects. That money has been diverted to border wall construction.

Defense secretary focused on filling Pentagon vacancies
Five candidates to fill senior Pentagon positions will have confirmation hearings in the coming weeks

Newly installed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper wants to waste no time assembling his team at the Pentagon.

Five candidates will have confirmation hearings in the coming weeks, and another eight are being vetted by the White House, Esper told reporters Wednesday during a rare on-camera briefing with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.

Pentagon assembles team of intellectual property experts
Questions linger about how to properly compensate defense industry for data

The Defense Department is on the verge of standing up a new cadre of intellectual property experts to help the Pentagon negotiate rights to valuable data and other IP from defense contractors, the department’s top weapons buyer said Monday.

“We need to go on the offense to protect our technology, versus merely acting defensively,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, said during a briefing with reporters.

Border emergency hits six months; ball back in Congress’ court
Lawmakers may again try to terminate Trump's declaration allowing him to shift funds for wall construction

Thursday marks six months since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border, a notable anniversary because it gives Congress another shot at ending it.

The flashpoint in the debate remains funding for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, a prominent pledge made during Trump’s 2016 presidential bid that now hangs over the 2020 campaign.

Women push for greater role in the national security establishment
Leadership Council for Women in National Security is making it a campaign issue

Many women in the country’s emerging class of national security and foreign policy leaders came into their fields assuming the sexism that stifled careers in earlier generations was a thing of the past.

They quickly learned, however, that the upper ranks of the country’s national security apparatus was still very much a boys club.

Senate confirms four-star general, inches forward another despite sexual assault allegations
The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Senate on Thursday voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just hours after the Armed Services Committee decided to move forward with Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be the military’s No. 2 officer despite lingering questions about allegations of sexual assault.

The progress on the Joint Chiefs nominees comes as senators try to firm up leadership at the Pentagon, which has been in a state of transition for months.