Patrick Kelley

VA Nominee: Shorter Wait Time, Easier Access
But overhaul could take years, Wilkie says

A Senate panel on Wednesday questioned President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department on how he plans to shorten lengthy appointment wait times and make health care access easier at VA hospitals.

Robert Wilkie, tapped by Trump this summer to lead the troubled agency, said that reducing wait times for veterans, which often extend beyond 30 days, would be among his top priorities. But he said it could be several years before the department’s appointment system can be overhauled.

Trump’s Space Force Order Would Need Congressional Action
Senate could be final stumbling block to creation of new service branch

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the Pentagon to create a new service branch dedicated to military operations in space.

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Trump said at the White House, indicating that the proposed service would be completely separate from the other five existing services.

Nuclear Weapons, Border Wall, Military Parade Among NDAA Issues
Trump’s priorities are driving unusually partisan debate on this year’s defense authorization act

The House Armed Services Committee will debate dozens of amendments to the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill during its marathon markup on Wednesday, when lawmakers could introduce a wide variety of proposals, such as authorizing the Pentagon to develop new nuclear weapons and allowing transgender troops to serve in the military.

The legislation, commonly referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, typically draws broad bipartisan support. But the markup is likely to include debate on some of the most controversial defense issues, including transgender troops, low-yield nuclear weapons and downsizing the Pentagon’s civilian workforce.

White House Announces New Russian Sanctions
7 oligarchs, 12 companies, 17 government officials, a state-owned arms company and its bank

The Trump administration on Friday sanctioned nearly 40 Russian government officials, oligarchs and the businesses they own or control in its latest round of sanctions leveled in response to Moscow’s aggression.

Friday’s sanctions, which target Russian security services, energy czars and weapons companies, come in response to Russia’s “malign activity across the world,” a senior administration official said, noting Russia’s occupation of Crimea in Ukraine, support of the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria, subversion of Western democracies and continued belligerent cyber attacks.

Budget Proposal Funds Latest Pentagon Strategy
‘Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department’

The Trump administration is seeking to give the Defense Department as much money as Congress can appropriate for fiscal year 2019 to fund the Pentagon’s newest strategy and to fulfill President Donald Trump’s repeated promise to rebuild the military.

The Pentagon request released Monday claims to align with the Pentagon’s recently released National Defense Strategy, which elevates the possibility of great power conflict with Russia and China as the country’s greatest security concern, eclipsing terrorism.

Mattis Lists Budget Priorities, Warns Against Another Stopgap
Another CR would hurt national security, almost everyone agrees at Tuesday hearing

The Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal 2019 will ask Congress to fund a spate of new high-tech weaponry as well as more traditional military programs, Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers Tuesday.

The proposal, which the Pentagon plans to send to Congress next week, will seek funds for space and cyber operations, nuclear deterrent forces, missile defense, advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence capabilities and professional military education.

Top Pentagon Brass to Brief Lawmakers on New Strategies
Mattis, Selva will testify before House Armed Services Committee

Top Pentagon officials are slated to appear before House Armed Services this week to inform lawmakers about two recently crafted strategic documents that form the basis of the Trump administration’s defense policy.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva will testify before the committee Tuesday morning to brief legislators on the Pentagon’s recently completed National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review.

Trump Applauds ISIS Defeat, Keeps Heat on North Korea
“We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure,” president says during State of the Union

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night touted the military’s success against the Islamic State terror group, his administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intensifying pressure on North Korea as his key national security accomplishments in his first year in office.  

During his first State of the Union address, Trump also announced that he had signed an order to keep open the controversial Guantanamo Bay military detention facility in Cuba. And he called on Congress to lift defense budget caps as the two parties remain firmly at odds over spending, with Democrats insisting on equal increases for nondefense dollars. 

McCain Still Steering Armed Services From Arizona
Committee members say the chairman is still involved in panel business

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain is still firmly in charge of the Armed Services Committee’s proceedings despite his physical absence from the nation’s capital.

Since December, McCain has been in his home state of Arizona undergoing physical therapy and rehabilitation as he battles brain cancer. In McCain’s absence, the committee’s number two Republican, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, has led committee hearings.

House Appoints Defense Bill Negotiators As Space Corps Fight Looms
F-35 fighter jets will be another point of contention as the chambers confer

The House on Thursday agreed by unanimous consent to begin negotiations with the Senate on the fiscal 2018 Defense authorization bill. Throughout the coming weeks, a panel of conferees from each chamber will negotiate a final version of the legislation before Congress votes to send the bill to the president.

The House will send to the conference 46 Republicans and 27 Democrats. Eighteen Republicans and 13 Democrats will represent the Armed Services Committee in the negotiations.

Podcast: The Trump Doctrine on Foreign Policy
The Week Ahead, Episode 73

Donald Trump, the candidate, pledged to withdraw from foreign conflicts. As president, he has done the opposite, taking on North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Afghanistan. CQ Defense Editor Patrick Pexton and Reporter Patrick Kelley unpack what’s at stake at a time when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s future is also uncertain.

Space Corps Proposal Has Military Brass Going Orbital

It was, to be sure, a bold and audacious move from a relatively unknown member of Congress, who moved forward despite fervent objections from both the Defense Department and the White House and not so much as a full committee hearing or debate.

Alabama Republican Mike D. Rogers nevertheless used his perch atop a House Armed Services subcommittee to slip language into the annual Pentagon policy bill to create an entirely new military service focused on space.

Senate Set to Pass Defense Authorization Measure

With the Senate’s 2018 defense authorization bill passing a procedural hurdle Thursday, the chamber is expected to vote on final passage of the massive military policy bill Monday.

The Senate voted 84-9 to invoke cloture and limit debate on a substitute version of the bill that includes 104 amendments.

Drama Awaits Senate Debate on Pentagon Policy
No lack of substantive, high-profile issues for defense authorization measure

The Senate will take up the massive Pentagon policy bill this week, providing a stage for high-profile debate on simmering national security issues ranging from transgender troops to the growing North Korea nuclear threat.

Senators have already filed hundreds of amendments to the defense bill, among them language to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, establish a North Korea strategy, limit arms sales to U.S. allies, define U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and block the creation of a new military service.

House Passes $658 Billion Defense Spending Bill

The House on Thursday passed the so-called security minibus appropriations package on a 235-192 vote, allocating nearly $790 billion across four separate spending bills, including $658 billion for defense.

The measure designates $584 billion in regular defense appropriations and $73.9 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations accounts.

House Readies Debate on Defense Amendments

The House Rules Committee on Wednesday approved a structured rule governing floor debate for amendments to the fiscal 2018 defense appropriations bill, the final piece of the four-bill minibus spending package on the House floor.

Legislators will work through 54 amendments in the defense measure (HR 3219) during debate Thursday, including language to restrict spending defense funds on certain projects in Afghanistan and Yemen and efforts to add funds for missile defense and other weapons programs.

Armed Services Panels Diverge on Space, Troop Levels
Committees also split on funding for Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program

The House and Senate Armed Services committees took significantly different approaches in their annual Pentagon policy bills on everything from space operations to Army manpower, lining up what could be a tough conference negotiation later this year.

Among the biggest differences in the bills is how each approached space defense programs. The House panel advanced legislation that would create a new military service focused on space and operated by the Air Force called Space Corps. The proposal, which has the backing of committee Republicans and Democrats alike, would amount to a historic restructuring of the military, if it becomes law.