Political Report: 6/11/2019

 In Political Report

Main Story: House Armed Services to Mark-Up FY2020 NDAA

On June 12, the full House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will begin marking up the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This follows markups at the subcommittee level last week. HASC will have to address several controversial issues, including—but not limited to—the budget topline, funding for the border wall with Mexico, President Trump’s proposed space force, and nuclear weapons’ posture and doctrine.

HASC’s version of the NDAA authorizes a $733 billion topline for the Department of Defense. This is lower than the $750 billion requested by the president and approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) but is the same number the Pentagon planned for in late 2018 and the FY2019 request. The bill also prohibits the administration from using funds in the defense budget to build a wall along the southern border, setting up a showdown with the White House and its congressional allies. On June 10, HASC members agreed on a deal to create a space force. An amendment will be added to existing version of the NDAA during the full committee markup this week, after Democratic concerns about the cost and increased bureaucracy involved in the proposed space force were addressed.

The markup from the strategic forces subcommittee includes controversial nuclear policy provisions, many of which reflect the preferences of Chairman Adam Smith, a longtime critic of U.S. nuclear policy. The bill prohibits funds for deploying the W76-2 submarine-launched, low-yield nuclear warhead included in the administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, bans developing a mobile variant of the Air Force’s LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, and eliminates a requirement for a conventional variant for a long-range standoff weapon. On the other hand, Smith did not press his view that the U.S. should publicly adhere to a no first use policy, instead only requiring an independent report on the subject.

Per tradition, the HASC mark-up will run as one marathon session, beginning in the morning and running until late into the night. Spare a thought for those junior staffers who will be pulling an (or several) all-nighter in support of this week’s mark-up. It’s a rough time of year.

House Activity

The House voted on eleven bills under suspension of the rules on Monday, including the Taxpayer First Act, Prevent Child Marriage Act, and a resolution expressing concern on the U.S.-Turkey relationship. However, the big news will be the House beginning to pass appropriations bills. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has committed to passing all twelve appropriations bills prior to the August recess. This is a difficult lift but starting this early is promising. The Rules Committee will begin considering the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Senate Activity

The Senate will vote on the nominations of federal judges.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • HASC
    • 6/12 ‘Full Committee Markup of H.R. 2500 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020’, Rayburn 2118, 10am
  • SFRC
    • 6/13 ‘Women in Conflict: Advancing Women’s Role in Peace and Security’, SD-419, Dirksen, 10:00am
    • 6/12 ‘NATO Expansion: Examining the Accession of North Macedonia’, SD-419, Dirksen, 10:15am
  • HFAC
    • 6/13 ‘U.S. Interests in South Asia and the FY 2020 Budget’, 2172 Rayburn, 9:30am
    • 6/12 ‘What Emergency?: Arms Sales and the Administration’s Dubious End-Run around Congress’, 2172 Rayburn, 10am
    • 6/11 ‘Crushing Dissent: The Ongoing Crisis in Nicaragua’, 2172 Rayburn, 10am

Government Activity Round-up

On June 6, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). GAO recommends that MDA use delays in the European Phased Adaptive Approach to conduct additional testing against intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The day before, GAO published its findings on the Depart of Defense’s acquisition reform process. While DOD has begun to implement some reforms, the jury is out on how some reforms will affect defense acquisitions.

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