Political Report: 1/29/2019

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story: Shutdown Ends, Government Reopens for Three Weeks

On January 25, President Trump agreed to reopen the federal government for three weeks. The decision represented a political setback for the president, who previously insisted that he wouldn’t sign legislation unless it contained billions for a wall on the border with Mexico.

While the deal ended the shutdown, it did not reconcile the different positions of the White House and Congressional Democrats on border security. Unless both sides reach a more permanent solution by February 15, parts of the federal government may be shut down again.

An agreement will not be easy politically—immigration hawks responded to the end of the shutdown by criticizing the president for backing away from a central campaign promise, while Democrats rallied behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her negotiating bona fides.

At the same time, the President’s Budget Request is expected to come out next week. Recent reporting indicates that the scheduled release date of February 4, 2019 will not be met. Instead, OMB is likely to release the budget at least a week late, if not later. It remains to be seen if a potential future shutdown would delay release into March.

On a more positive note, the new Congress will host its first defense-related hearings this week. The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on China and Russia, reflecting an emerging bipartisan consensus that those countries pose the central challenge to U.S. national security.

The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the “Department of Defense’s Support to the Southern Border,” considered an opportunity for House Democrats to scrutinize President Trump’s decision to deploy troops to the border with Mexico.

House Activity

The House will vote on legislation coming out of the Homeland Security Committee, including the Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists’ Use of Virtual Currencies Act (H.R. 428).

Senate Activity

The Senate will attempt to pass the first piece of legislation of the new Congress, S.1, Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019. The bill This bill authorizes assistance and weapons transfers to Israel, extends defense cooperation with Jordan, establishes additional sanctions related to the conflict in Syria, and allows states to divest from entities boycotting Israel.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • HPSCI
    • No hearings this week
  •  SSCI
    • 1/29, ‘Open Hearing: Worldwide Threats’, Full Committee Hearing, Hart 216, 9:30am
  •  HFAC
    • No hearings this week
  • SFRC
    • No hearings this week
  • SASC
    • 1/29 ‘China and Russia’, Full Committee Hearing, SD-G50 Dirksen, 10am
    • ‘Department of Defense Enterprise-wide Cybersecurity Policies and Architecture’, Full Committee Hearing, SR-222 Russell, 2:30pm
  •  HASC
    • 1/29 ‘Department of Defense’s Support to the Southern Border’, Full Committee Hearing, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
  •  SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  •  HAC-D
    • No hearings this week

Government Activity Round-up

CBO released a new report on US nuclear weapons spending, “Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2019 to 2028.” The report estimates that, based on current plans, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DoE) would spend $494 billion over the 2019–2028 period on nuclear forces, for an average of just under $50 billion a year.

The current 10-year forecast is 23 percent higher than CBO’s 2017 estimate, although half of the increase is due to inflation and the fact that the years covered by this estimate occur later in the spending cycle. CBO highlights that $432 billion of the total includes current administration plans, while the remaining $62 billion represents a CBO estimate of cost overruns likely to occur.

The $432 billion ten-year total includes—strategic nuclear delivery systems and weapons ($234 billion), DOE’s nuclear laboratories and supporting activities ($106 billion), DOD’s C3 and early-warning systems ($77 billion), and tactical nuclear delivery systems and weapons ($15 billion).

Since CBO’s 2017 estimate on nuclear spending, the Trump administration released the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR was largely consistent with past US policy, although it did emphasize the return of great power competition with China and Russia.

CBO notes that the 2018 NPR called for three new capabilities that could increase spending by $17 billion through 2028—a nuclear warhead with relatively low explosive yield to be carried on submarine-launched ballistic missiles; a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile; and an increase in US capacity to produce plutonium pits.

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