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Defense top line ‘will probably go up’: Key Dems see GOP boost as path to a deal

WASHINGTON ― Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed says the defense top line “will probably go up” to win Republican support on the path to a budget deal for fiscal 2022 ― and some other key Democrats on defense matters are grudgingly saying the same. The comments came days after Reed’s panel unveiled plans…

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Defense top line ‘will probably go up’: Key Dems see GOP boost as path to a deal

WASHINGTON ― Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed says the defense top line “will probably go up” to win Republican support on the path to a budget deal for fiscal 2022 ― and some other key Democrats on defense matters are grudgingly saying the same. The comments came days after Reed’s panel unveiled plans for a $740 billion defense authorization bill, which includes billions of dollars more in equipment purchases than President Joe Biden’s $716 billion Pentagon request, surprising outside observers. Reed, who is a senior appropriator, predicted that an added $25 billion eventually “will be part of the [Senate] approps bill.” “People are looking ahead at the final budget resolution, and the Republicans have made it clear that they’re not satisfied with the defense number and they would require more,” said Reed, D-R.I.. “What we’re presenting is what the Pentagon sent over and what they feel is necessary to do their mission.” On July 14, an FY22 defense appropriations bill that tracks with Biden’s budget advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee, but with weak support. Republicans on the panel, unified in opposition because of the top line, didn’t commit any votes to it ― and Democratic leaders have since held it back from the floor amid dissent from progressives. On July 22, the evenly divided SASC held a strong bipartisan vote, 23-3, to advance its $740 billion version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The panel had voted 25-1 to adopt the $25 billion increase as an amendment from the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate have lobbied against Biden’s figure for weeks, saying it would be insufficient to counter threats like a growing Chinese military and terrorist groups worldwide. In the narrowly divided House and the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will likely need Republicans to pass defense measures. Asked last week, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., acknowledged it’s likely that his panel’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act will end up exceeding Biden’s top line. A progressive but also a pragmatist, Smith told Defense News he doesn’t agree with the increase but is open to the idea as a means of advancing the bill. “The people who want to spend more than the Biden number have built a lot of support, and yes, I think that [$25 billion increase] is a potential bipartisan pathway,” Smith said. “I don’t support it, I don’t think that’s where we should go, but at the end of the day, I have one vote.” Sign up for our Early Bird Brief Get the defense industry’s most comprehensive news and information straight to your inbox Subscribe Enter a valid email address (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Thanks for signing up! × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. “The reality is, as we’ve seen with the defense appropriations bill, we do not have the votes to pass it with just Democrats, and that’s the worst kept secret in the building,” he added. “And it is very important to pass a defense bill; it has a lot of important policies that we’re trying to get done.” Along similar lines, the Senate Democrat in charge of funding the Pentagon, Sen. Jon Tester, said the way to avoid a budgetary impasse with Republicans ― and a stopgap continuing resolution at the Oct. 1 fiscal deadline ― is to agree to a plus-up. Like Reed, he foresees the Senate Appropriations Committee eventually mirroring SASC. “Hopefully what that’s going to do is allow us to get a defense bill through the process ― and by the way, there’s plenty of reasons, plenty of threats ― but get it through the process so we don’t end up with a CR,” said Tester, a centrist from Montana. Tester would like to begin work on the defense spending bill soon and have it over the finish line by mid-September, but the process is stuck. Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has for months been calling for bipartisan, bicameral talks with the White House to establish top lines before his panel starts its work. Last week, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., called the SASC NDAA “a positive step,” but he stopped short of abandoning his months-old demand that any increases to nondefense discretionary spending be matched on the defense side. Compared with this fiscal year, Biden’s proposal would hike the nondefense budget up 16 percent and nudge the defense budget up 1.6 percent. “I thought that was a good sign for some of us who believe national security is very, very important,” Shelby said of the SASC NDAA. “Sometimes, and we all know it’s not what you want, it’s what you can get ― and that is a positive step. Would we like more? We would, but so does every agency.” Meanwhile, some key Democrats want to stick to Biden’s top line. Tester’s counterpart in the House, who shepherded a bill that matched Biden’s number, told Congressional Quarterly last week that she was not a fan of the heftier, SASC-approved defense budget. “The Senate can do what it chooses to do. So far I haven’t seen much action or anything ever come out of the Senate,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. “I support the number that I marked up to.” But even at the lower figure, the support of the House’s progressive bloc cannot be won. Progressives remain concerned over nuclear spending, the Pentagon’s lack of a complete audit and most of all the ever-increasing top line, according to Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal. “Chairwoman McCollum has done an amazing job. She has crafted a much better bill than ever before, but as you know, the critical issue for progressives has been the top-line number,” Jayapal, D-Calif., told Defense News. “It does not help that the Senate Democrats added $25 billion to the [administration’s] number. Because we feel like it’s, no matter what the number is, it has to go up.” Progressive Democrats may get the most headlines, but there’s another influential group who tends to agree with Republicans on the top line: The so-called national security Democrats, made up of former military or intelligence officers, most of whom have flipped red districts blue and should be facing tough re-election fights in 2022. One of them, House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Elaine Luria has been outspoken that Biden’s proposed defense budget “does not meet the level” the military needs to keep pace with China. Luria, whose Virginia district includes the world’s largest naval base, is a 20-year naval veteran and nuclear-trained surface warfare officer. “We should match what the Senate has done, and I would clearly like to see 3-5 percent real growth,” she said of the top line during the HASC Readiness Subcommittee markup last Thursday. I will continue working to ensure our Armed Forces have the resources they need to outpace our near-peer adversaries in the Pacific. The House Defense Budget should match the $25 billion increase that the Senate approved on a bipartisan basis. pic.twitter.com/1wrP5KEdFB— Rep. Elaine Luria (@RepElaineLuria) July 29, 2021 On the Senate side, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who’s running again in 2022 after reclaiming an Illinois Senate seat for Democrats in 2016, had a similar message. A combat-wounded Army helicopter pilot, Duckworth chairs the Senate Airland Subcommittee. “I think it’ll make it through,” Duckworth said of the $25 billion boost, noting that Congress routinely added to the defense top line while Donald Trump was president. “Why are people surprised when this is what we have always done?” she said. “And frankly, with the tempo that our military has been going through, they need this extra money so that they can maintain their readiness.” Amid the Democratic fractures, House Republicans are “totally united” against Biden’s defense top line, according to Rep. Ken Calvert, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel. To him, it’s inevitable that a final budget deal matches SASC’s hike to $740 billion. “At the end of the process, that number will be the number for defense appropriations,” Calvert told reporters at the Capitol last week. Smith, who long predicted an internal fight over the top line, argued a better course for Democrats than rejecting national security measures wholesale, as some progressives do. He said Democrats should take part in drafting them to make sure they hew to Democratic values. “I can say: ‘Look, you’re right, there’s some things we got to improve.’ But if it’s just a bright line in the sand, you’re just not voting, ‘we just don’t want to have any responsibility for that?’ That’s not a good message coming from the Democratic Party,” Smith said. If a top-line boost is unavoidable, it looks like the next fight will be about how to spend it. Smith was skeptical of SASC’s plus-up for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, among other longstanding programs ― and that’s on brand for him. With an eye on Russia and China, Smith has for months been calling for forward-leaning investments in information warfare, survivable platforms, command-and-control systems, cyberwarfare, and satellite technologies. “I’m not going to choose just killing the defense bill over being forced into a negotiation about how much money to spend, right? Let me say, where we spend that money matters,” Smith said. “I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed by what I’ve read about where the Senate chose to spend the money. Just buying more platforms because you’ve got the money? How does that fit into the National Security Strategy?” Leo Shane III in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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Green Beret dies during water training at Fort Campbell

A Special Forces soldier died during a water training event Tuesday at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Army officials confirmed.The soldier, who was a National Guardsman assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group, went underwater during a surface swimming exercise and did not resurface, an Army official told Army Times.The soldier’s family has been notified, the official…

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Green Beret dies during water training at Fort Campbell

A Special Forces soldier died during a water training event Tuesday at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Army officials confirmed.The soldier, who was a National Guardsman assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group, went underwater during a surface swimming exercise and did not resurface, an Army official told Army Times.The soldier’s family has been notified, the official said.The diver training was taking place at Fort Campbell’s Joe Swing Park Reservoir, according to a Fort Campbell release. A search began “immediately” and included personnel from installation emergency services, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Montgomery County EMS, according to the release.RELATEDThe soldier’s remains were recovered on Wednesday morning, and the incident remains under investigation, the release added.The soldier is the second Green Beret to die during water training in recent months.Staff Sgt. Micah Walker, who was a member of 10th Special Forces Group, became unresponsive during a water treading exercise at the Army’s Special Forces Underwater Operations School on Naval Air Station Key West, in Florida. He died soon after.Walker’s death remains under investigation.Davis Winkie is a staff reporter covering the Army. He originally joined Military Times as a reporting intern in 2020. Before journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.

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New Army aviation warrants no longer automatically promoted after two years

The Army has issued a directive that could add two years to the time required for aviator warrant officers to be promoted to chief warrant officer 2.The directive, AD 2021-31, was approved Sept. 10 and takes effect Oct. 1.The move is aimed at giving “aviation warrant officers more time for professional development at junior ranks,”…

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New Army aviation warrants no longer automatically promoted after two years

The Army has issued a directive that could add two years to the time required for aviator warrant officers to be promoted to chief warrant officer 2.The directive, AD 2021-31, was approved Sept. 10 and takes effect Oct. 1.The move is aimed at giving “aviation warrant officers more time for professional development at junior ranks,” according to an Army release.Warrant officers are automatically promoted after two years serving as warrants, according to Army Regulation 600-8-29.But many aviation branch warrant officers are promoted to CWO2 within a few months of arriving at their units because of the lengthy time spent in flight school, according to the release.RELATEDThe directive means there’s no more automatic two-year promotion. The two-year clock will start when the warrant officer completes flight school and Warrant Officer Basic Course.The move will give them, “more time to learn and grow,” according to the release.The directive is specific to aviation warrant officers and does not apply to other branches, according to the release.Warrant officers of all kinds have been a hot commodity recently. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve were developing a policy this summer to bring back retired active duty warrant officers.The plan would allow those retired warrant officers to continue to draw their pensions while serving, and getting paid, in the Guard or Reserve, Army Times reported.Officials told Army Times in July that an estimated 600 warrant officers were slated to retire in the next 12 months. At the time, the Army Reserve was about 1,000 warrant officers short of its needs.The Guard had 2,333 warrant officer vacancies out of 10,234 authorized slots, officials said.Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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Former Air Force contractor sentenced for taking classified information

A former Air Force contractor was sentenced in federal court Tuesday for his role in taking an estimated 2,500 pages of classified information while working for the Air Force between 2016 and 2019.Izaak Vincent Kemp, 36, of Fairborn, Ohio, was charged in January and pleaded guilty in February to unauthorized removal and retention of classified…

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Former Air Force contractor sentenced for taking classified information

A former Air Force contractor was sentenced in federal court Tuesday for his role in taking an estimated 2,500 pages of classified information while working for the Air Force between 2016 and 2019.Izaak Vincent Kemp, 36, of Fairborn, Ohio, was charged in January and pleaded guilty in February to unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office release.He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Walter Rice to one year and one day in federal prison.RELATEDKemp worked as a contractor at the Air Force Research Laboratory from July 2016 to May 2019, according to court documents. After that he worked at the U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Both organizations are at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio.Kemp had a top secret security clearance while employed with the Air Force.On May 25, 2019, the 36-year-old awoke to at least 10 agents in tactical gear in his house, with an armored vehicle outside and drones flying overhead, according to court documents.Those agents found more than 100 documents, containing an estimated 2,500 pages of material classified at the secret level, according to the release.“Despite having training on various occasions on how to safeguard classified material, Kemp took 112 classified documents and retained them at his home,” acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel’s Office said in a statement.Kemp’s attorney argued in the sentencing deliberations that his client didn’t take the documents to undermine national security, made no profit from taking the documents and did not share them with any “entity with adverse interests to the United States of America,” according to court documents.Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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