By Larry Shaughnessy
One of the many issues likely to be batted around during this year's presidential election is the status of the U.S. Navy.
Several times on the campaign trail, Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, has criticized the Obama administration's handling of the Navy.
"Do you realize our Navy is now smaller than any time since 1917?" Romney said during a campaign rally in South Carolina last January.
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 Alan Silverleib
Senior military leaders were not immediately notified that troops in their command were involved in what is alleged to be a much larger alleged prostitution scandal involving military and Secret Service agents in Colombia, according to the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, also said Tuesday that a decision to keep the suspected military personnel in Colombia after news of the scandal first broke was made without any input from Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of the U.S. Southern Command.
Levin told reporters that the higher levels of the chain of command were not notified of the assignment of certain personnel to Colombia in advance of President Barack Obama's visit to Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas in April.
Two veteran senators complained Wednesday that military officials may have been slow to react to an alleged prostitution scandal in Colombia and have not been forthcoming with Congress so far in reporting exactly what happened.
The incident this month before President Barack Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena involved Secret Service and U.S. military members who allegedly consorted with prostitutes.
After their first briefing by military officials on the investigation, Senate Armed Services Committee veterans Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona expressed dissatisfaction Wednesday with the military's response. FULL POST
by Larry Shaughnessy
America is working to remove al-Assad's regime in Syria through diplomatic pressure, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Wednesday, but he warned against U.S. military intervention.
"For us to act unilaterally would be a mistake," Panetta said in his opening statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria. He noted there is no consensus among nations for intervention.
Panetta said military options are being considered, but he asked the senators to “recognize the limitation of military force, especially U.S. boots on the ground."
By Adam Levine
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad will not leave or change course short of a coup, mostly because of the president's need to "emulate his father," U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday.
Clapper said the Syrian opposition, while mostly local, has been infiltrated by al Qaeda elements, maybe without the opposition knowing about it.
His comments about the situation in Syria were the most detailed assessment to date of the U.S. intelligence read on Syria, and came during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee about threats to the United States. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
Some of the Senate's big guns opened fire Tuesday on the new defense budget request, calling it "unacceptable" and saying they were "seriously concerned."
But the Pentagon's biggest gun fired back, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta telling the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the budget is Congress' test of whether cutting the deficit is about "talk or action."
Tuesday's hearing was the start of several days of testimony on Capitol Hill focused on the 2013 defense budget request that proposes cuts of tens of thousands of troops, reduces the U.S. fleet of warplanes and slows down ship-building in order to meet billions of dollars in cuts mandated by Congress when it passed the Budget Control Act last summer.
By Adam Levine
After initially threatening a veto, the White House has issued a statement saying changes made by the House and Senate regarding controversial detainee provisions are sufficient and advisors will no longer advise the president to veto the 2012 Defense Authorization bill if it passes the House and Senate.
The detainee provision sought to codify rules that would mandate that the military would hold in custody and try terror suspects. That concerned the White House and many lawmakers who think the responsibility belongs, in part, to law enforcement agencies and the federal courts and warned that Americans could possibly be detained indefinitely by the military.
The White House reversal comes on the same day that the FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee hearing that while some of the changes are helpful, the provisions regarding what happens at the time of an arrest "lack clarity" and did not address all of his concerns about the ability to gain cooperation after an arrest.
"It lacks clarity with regard to what happens if - we had a case in Lackawanna, New York, and an arrest has to be made there and there's no military within several hundred miles," Mueller said.
Mueller said it is an issue too when FBI and military can both be on the scene.
"My concern is that you do not want to have FBI agents and military showing up at the scene at the same time on a covered person or with a covered person. There may be some uncovered persons there with some uncertainty as to who has the role and who is gonna do what," Mueller noted. FULL POST
As the Senate prepares to consider the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, the Office of Budget Management has issued a statement saying senior advisors would recommend a veto if the bill because it constrains the president's "critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists".
The OMB criticizes the provisions as restricting counter terrorism and injecting "legal uncertainty and ambiguity" that complicates the detention process.
By Adam Levine
A controversial provision to require the military to retain custody of terror suspects affiliated with Al Qaeda, Taliban or allied groups has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee and will be voted on by the Senate.
The provision mandates that the military hold those captured attacking or planning to attack the U.S. or allies, even if captured in the United States. It does not apply to U.S. citizens.
In addition, the bill would not allow the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to any country where there was a "confirmed case" of a released Guantanamo detainee who "subsequently engaged in any terrorist activity."
The provisions have held up for months the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which outlines spending defense spending priorities. In a compromise reached in committee, several provisions were amended after objection from the Obama administration but still includes military custody for those captured in the US, which the administration objects to. FULL POST