By Jennifer Rizzo
Republican members of Congress went head to head with the White House Wednesday, pressing the administration on how across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect next year would be implemented.
An administration official in turn pressed back, telling Congress to do its job and pass balanced budget legislation to avoid the indiscriminate cuts.
"To make this vivid, the right course is not to spend time moving around rocks at the bottom of the cliff to make for a less painful landing," said Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of The Office of Management and Budget, the entity which would provide guidance on implementation. "The right course is to avoid driving off the cliff altogether."
By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer
A spate of leaks of classified information regarding recent U.S. covert operations has damaged the United States, top Pentagon officials told congressional members during a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Not long after, the Pentagon announced an initiative for cracking down on leaks.
During a hearing before the House Armed Service Committee, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and the Pentagon's top lawyer informed the house panel that damage was done, but the trio did not give the panel specifics, according to the head of the committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California.
Panetta and Dempsey told the panel the leaks did not come out of the Pentagon and McKeon, at a news conference after the hearing, said he felt "pretty secure" that they did not come from the Department of Defense.
By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer
Chief executives of leading defense companies told a House panel Wednesday they would have to start informing employees just before the 2012 election that their jobs would terminated in January if Congress fails to make a budget deal, triggering hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts that would ripple through the defense industry sector.
The four CEOs testified before the House Armed Services Committee and echoed what many defense industry officials have been sounding the alarm about for months: The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, would be devastating to the defense sector and the economy.
Update 7/12: Pentagon spokesman George Little said the page limit directive has been rescinded.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, led a group of Republicans in a news conference Wednesday to attack the Department of Defense over the brevity of a report about China's military.
The report is 19 pages long with and additional 33 pages of appendixes.
"I think that is outrageous," said McKeon, R-California. "We can't do our job if the department doesn't give us adequate information to do the things that we are required to do."
The DoD is required by law to report to Congress about China's military. Last year's report was 84 pages long with appendices.
By Mike Mount, Senior National Security Producer
In what is shaping up to be a classic congressional right vs. left fight over defense and war funding, both the House and Senate are gearing up to battle over some expected and not-so-expected items in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the bill, showing its hand to members of the House of Representatives on what it felt should be authorized for military spending.
The act authorizes spending limits and sets defense policy, but it does not actually appropriate the funds.
The committee version must still pass a full Senate vote. The House signed off on its bill this month. While a date has yet to be announced, both the final House and Senate versions will go through extensive negotiations to hammer out a final version of the legislation, expected in the fall.
Both bills have numerous amendments that will be debated and fought over in the coming months. Keep an eye on these five if you like political fireworks.
By Jennifer Rizzo
As the House Armed Services Committee was finalizing its version of the 2013 defense budget Wednesday, a traditional input from the military's top brass was noticeably missing this year.
The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps service chiefs decided not to submit to Congress their "wish lists," a rundown of programs and priorities not covered under the current budget that they would like to see funded if extra money was available. Officially known as unfunded priorities lists, this is the first year that all the services have not submitted the documents since the 1990s. An exception is the Special Operations Command, which has submitted one request this year of $143 million for high-definition, full-motion video sensors for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
"These served a very useful purpose in the last decade because it's rare for senior military leaders to get a direct line to Congress without having to go through the Secretary of Defense," said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
By Adam Levine
With some calling for a rush to the exits in Afghanistan after two weeks of heightened violence, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is looking to add troops into the mix. The bill, should it gain traction, could force the U.S. to change its current drawdown plans.
California's Rep. Buck McKeon introduced a new bill that calls for U.S. military to guard U.S. entities, replacing the thousands of private security guards and Afghan nationals that are currently being used. FULL POST
By Adam Levine and Tim Lister, with reporting from Ted Barrett and Pam Benson
As part of its efforts to explore peace talks with the Taliban, the Obama administration is considering the controversial release of several senior Taliban figures from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. The names of those being considered for release have not been disclosed, and the conditions are still being discussed. But diplomatic sources say they would probably be relocated to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where the Taliban is negotiating the establishment of a liaison office to facilitate dialogue with the U.S.
The administration has said any discussion about releasing the detainees is very preliminary and hinges on the Taliban renouncing terrorism and agreeing to peace talks.
But the proposal, confirmed in congressional testimony this week, has come under attack in Congress. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, said Thursday that the U.S. was "crossing a dangerous line" by discussing the possibility of releasing the prisoners.
And in a letter to President Obama, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, a former Marine officer who served in Afghanistan, warned that the release would "send the wrong message to the Taliban." FULL POST
By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
A senior military leader warned Congress Thursday that further budget cuts will mean lost lives in future conflicts.
"There is just a tendency to believe at the end of a war that we will never need ground forces again. I'll tell you that we've never got that right," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army. "We have always required them. We just don't have the imagination to predict when that will be."
Chiarelli was testifying before the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee along with high-level officers from the other services.
"And quite frankly, let's be honest, it has cost us lives," Chiarelli said of cuts in the aftermath of previous wars. "Cost us lives at Kasserine Pass" in Tunisia in World War II," it cost us lives at Task Force Smith in Korea. It cost us lives every single time."
Chiarelli's blunt talk of deadly flesh-and-blood consequences broke free of the usual budget debate on the risk of a "hollowed-out force," and the cost of "modernization." FULL POST