John M. Donnelly

Pentagon aid to Taliban gets blocked by House vote
The House adopted an amendment that would bar the Pentagon from spending any funds to aid the Taliban

The House adopted late Tuesday night an amendment to its fiscal 2020 Defense appropriations bill that would bar the Pentagon from spending any of its funds to aid the Taliban insurgent group in Afghanistan.

CQ Roll Call disclosed last month that the Pentagon had asked Congress earlier this year for a $30 million fund that would at least partly be used in the coming fiscal year to defray the Taliban’s expenses associated with participating in talks to end the nearly 18-year-old war.

Drums of looming Iran war resound in Congress
As NDAA debate begins, McConnell urges colleagues ‘to keep these deadly serious developments at the top of our minds’

The Senate is launching a debate on its annual defense authorization bill this week amid the specter of war with Iran.

It is not clear to what extent possible U.S. military strikes on Iran will play a role in debate on the $750 billion measure or, for that matter, in a separate vote this week on blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch foe.

‘My way or the highway’: An approach to the NDAA debate
There are nearly 400 amendments filed to the bill, which has become law the past 58 years

The Senate is expected to debate the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill this week, but it may be a debate in name only.

In the past six years, the Senate has approved scores of amendments to the mammoth Pentagon policy bill, known as the NDAA — short for National Defense Authorization Act. But almost all of them have been of the unobjectionable variety, approved by unanimous consent as part of huge packages of similarly uncontroversial proposals.

Taliban money and fighter jets at issue in Pentagon's $690 billion bill
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 110

House appropriators this week will take up the biggest of the 12 annual spending bills, the $690 billion Pentagon measure that includes some prickly issues such as funding for Taliban expenses for peace talks with the U.S. and money to give the Pentagon more F-35 fighter jets than it requested, says CQ Roll Call's senior defense reporter John M. Donnelly. He lays out what is likely to happen to the measure that assumes higher spending levels for fiscal 2020.

Pentagon knew peace-talks fund would ‘likely’ benefit Taliban
Document suggests some money would give ‘material support to terrorists’

Pentagon leaders formally asked Congress in writing earlier this year for a $30 million fund to support peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban, even though, the Defense Department officials wrote, it was “likely” some of the money would materially support terrorists.

The legislative proposal, obtained by CQ Roll Call, suggests that the fiscal 2020 money to cover logistics involved in the negotiations may directly or indirectly provide financial support to violent groups in Afghanistan that have been fighting Americans and their own countrymen, including in targeted attacks on civilians, for nearly 18 years.

Air Force secretary: send disaster money ASAP
Officials say it will cost nearly $10 billion to repair recent storm damage at military bases

Heather Wilson, the outgoing Air Force secretary, said Thursday that the Defense Department desperately needs Congress to quickly bankroll recovery from recent storm damage at military bases, which officials say will cost nearly $10 billion to fix.

Senate leaders are drafting a disaster aid supplemental bill that may contain a down payment in aid for Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The House passed its own version last week with $1.5 billion to help military installations recover from hurricanes.

Administration wants to reimburse Taliban’s travel expenses
As if ‘life imitating The Onion’ according to one taxpayer advocate

The Trump administration asked Congress earlier this year for funds to reimburse Afghanistan’s Taliban for expenses the insurgent group incurs attending peace talks, according to a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, said Kevin Spicer, spokesman for Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, in a statement for CQ Roll Call.

Pentagon moves $1.5 billion more to border wall
Senate Democrats, led by Durbin, are contesting the decision

Updated 4:02 p.m. | The Defense Department is taking $1.5 billion from what officials there are calling lower-priority programs and redirecting it toward projects aimed at securing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Pentagon budget document.

The shift brings to $2.5 billion the amount of defense money diverted to date for the border wall project, with up to $3.6 billion more to come from military construction projects under President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration issued in January.

Shanahan’s confirmation as Defense secretary seems likely, if bumpy
Nominee’s ties to Boeing have come under scrutiny

The Senate appears likely to confirm Patrick Shanahan as secretary of Defense, barring an unforeseen and damaging disclosure — but not before senators pose some pointed questions of the nominee.

The White House announced on Thursday evening that President Donald Trump intends to nominate Shanahan to run the Pentagon. Shanahan has served as acting secretary since Jan. 1, when James Mattis, the Defense Department’s former boss, quit.

Navy brass gets grilling on defective ships, idle subs, other spending priorities
At a hearing with Navy leaders, Rep. Visclosky hinted he may rearrange the service’s budget plan to address concerns

Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, the son of an ironworker and an ardent shipbuilding advocate, is signaling that his first bill as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense may not actually go so easy on the Navy.

The 18-term lawmaker has long championed construction of Navy ships, perhaps partly because so many of them are made with Indiana steel. But the longtime leader of the Congressional Steel Caucus is worried about warship defects and idle submarines, and he’s not pleased with a dearth of daycare at Navy bases.

Lawmakers spar big-time on behalf of rocket companies
Billions of dollars in business, and the future of national security, are at stake in fight over developing a new generation of rockets

More than two-dozen House members have thrown the latest punch in a bare-knuckled fight that pits competing U.S. rocket manufacturers and their allies on Capitol Hill against one another.

A bipartisan group of 28 House members urged Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson in an April 12 letter not to alter the service’s blueprint for developing a new generation of rockets to lift U.S. military and spy satellites into orbit. But plenty of other lawmakers have pushed for several changes.

Navy routinely buys defective ships
Former shipbuilding executive: “There’s an old adage: ‘A ship so nice, we built it twice’”

For the U.S. Navy, buying warships that are defective, unfinished or both has become the norm.

The habit is expensive, dangerous and leaves overworked sailors to deal with faulty ships in need of repair from day one — yet it has escaped sufficient scrutiny in Washington.

Navy spends epically on shoddy ships
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 144

For the U.S. Navy, buying warships that are defective, unfinished or both has become the norm. The habit is expensive, dangerous and leaves overworked sailors to deal with faulty ships in need of repair from day one. Yet, the practice has escaped sufficient scrutiny in Washington even though taxpayers are on the hook for repeated repairs, reports CQ senior writer John M. Donnelly. Most new ships, he says, go to sea with one or more major defects — even after months of repair work and test...
Spectrum auction could boot weather forecasting back to the 1970s, lawmakers warn
Appropriators call for delay of auction set for Thursday

Senior House members, citing a potential threat to the safety of millions of people, urgently asked a federal agency Wednesday to delay an auction of radio frequency spectrum that is slated to occur Thursday.

If that spectrum is used for 5G wireless communications, as planned, it could interfere with government satellites’ ability to collect data in a nearby band — information on which accurate weather forecasts hinge, three House Appropriations subcommittee chairmen said in a letter obtained by Roll Call.

After bitter fight, defense budget will stay high
The hard-fought outcome is likely to be a bipartisan accord keeping defense spending at historically high levels

ANALYSIS — President Donald Trump’s defense budget request is sparking partisan discord that will last for months, but the hard-fought outcome is likely to be a bipartisan accord to keep defense spending at its historically high level.

The conflict is real. A House controlled by Democrats will not easily swallow Trump’s proposal to slash spending on nondefense programs by 9 percent at the same time as he wants a nearly 5 percent increase in defense spending. Trump’s $750 billion request for the Pentagon and other defense accounts marks one of the biggest peacetime defense budgets since World War II, even adjusting for inflation.

U.S. commander warns of risks from Trump’s troop withdrawal
Votel’s testimony clashes with recent remarks by the president, who has celebrated the complete defeat of the Islamic State

The U.S. commander in the Middle East warned lawmakers Thursday about the risks of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw American forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

The Islamic State terrorist group is down to less than one square mile of territory in Iraq and Syria, but the group has made a “calculated decision” to lay low and remains a dangerous threat, Army Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.

Breaking a trust to build the wall
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 100

CQ’s award-winning defense reporter John M. Donnelly revealed that a Pentagon fund that President Donald Trump wants to use to pay for his wall is nearly depleted, forcing him to look elsewhere in the Pentagon budget for the money. Trump appears poised to break tradition and bypass Congress in this money transfer, and Donnelly says that “would tear a hole in the fabric of cooperation between the White House and the Congress.”

Pentagon harbors culture of revenge against whistleblowers
‘Your chances of avoiding professional suicide are akin to winning the lottery,’ one advocate says

After an Army master sergeant witnessed sexual harassment and other misconduct in the ranks in 2014 and reported it to internal Defense Department authorities, the soldier’s supervisors retaliated. They suspended the whistleblower’s security clearance, issued a derogatory performance evaluation and put a written reprimand in the soldier’s file, among other reprisals.

Although the Pentagon inspector general’s office proved last year that the Army master sergeant was wrongly punished and the underlying allegations were true, the officials who retaliated had yet to face consequences. And it is not yet clear whether the damage they did to the soldier’s record has been fixed.

A reporter’s homage to government auditors — unsung heroes of transparency
America needs information that presents an objective version of reality

OPINION — Whistle-blowers and internal documents are the lifeblood of journalism.

Without such sources, the full story of what’s happening in our country can’t come out.

Congress could block big chunk of Trump’s emergency wall money
Full funds likely to be unavailable from the sources president has identified

More than one-third of the money President Donald Trump wants to redirect from other federal programs to build a border barrier is likely to be unavailable from the sources he has identified.

As a result, it may be difficult for the president to circumvent Congress, even if a resolution disapproving of his “emergency” moves is never enacted.