Top GOP Lawmaker: US Must Consider Building New Nukes – By Paul D. Shinkman June 23, 2015 | 4:41 p.m. EDT

Troubling times today for the Cold War-era weapon could mean certain dangers for the near future.

A deactivated Titan II nuclear ICMB is seen in a silo at the Titan Missile Museum on May 12, 2015, in Green Valley, Ariz. After years without talk of building new nuclear weapons, the U.S. should consider the issue, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Tuesday.

America needs to replace a rotting arsenal of nuclear weapons and counteract an increasingly boisterous Russia, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday. For these reasons, it must consider the long-taboo prospect of building new nukes.

“Can we have a national conversation about building new nuclear weapons?” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in remarks at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. “That’s something we haven’t been able to even have a conversation about for a while, but I think we’re going to have to.”

Russia to add 40 new intercontinental missiles this year

Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his plans to boost the former Soviet power’s nuclear arsenal with 40 new missiles. The plan follows a string of provocative comments from top Russian officials who consider a nuclear weapon the most effective method of countering what they consider NATO’s provocative actions in Eastern Europe.

“Russia obviously retains the right if needed to deploy its nuclear weapons anywhere on its national territory, including on the Crimean Peninsula,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said in early June.

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Pentagon chief to push U.S. allies to ditch ‘Cold War playbook – BY PHIL STEWART Sun Jun 21, 2015 7:04am EDT

 U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will urge NATO allies to “dispose of the Cold War playbook” during a trip to Europe this week, as the alliance adapts to a new kind of threat from Russia in the east and Islamic State to the south, U.S. officials said.
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House rejects bid to close Gitmo – By Cristina Marcos May 14, 2015, 07:34 pm

The House rebuffed a proposal Thursday to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by the end of 2017.

An amendment to the annual national defense authorization that would provide a framework for closing the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, failed on a vote of 174-249.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and author of the amendment, called the facility an “international eyesore.” He noted that the U.S. already has prisons that can hold dangerous convicted terrorists.

“We have the facilities. We have the ability to hold them safely here,” Smith said.

The legislation maintains the current ban against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. It also prohibits building facilities to house detainees on American soil.

Republicans argued that the need for a place to detain suspected terrorists would not go away even if the Guantanamo Bay prison were closed.

“I struggle to understand why we would close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp only to finance the incarceration of enemy combatants within the United States,” Coffman said.

President Obama first pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay facility upon taking office in 2009. But he has repeatedly encountered resistance from Capitol Hill throughout his two terms.

The White House issued a veto threat against the defense authorization in part because of the Guantanamo Bay restrictions. It argued in a Statement of Administration Policy that “operating this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.”

Smith offered a similar amendment to last year’s defense authorization, but it also failed to pass muster in the House.

Final passage of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization is expected Friday morning.

In House bill, arms makers wrote their own rules – By Austin Wright and Leigh Munsil 5/12/15 5:08 AM EDT

Contractor group brags that measures ‘in some cases were word-for-word adaptations.’

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10:  House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) holds a media availability to discuss his proposed legislation to provide defensive lethal assistance for Ukraine in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. Despite steep opposition from the Obama Administration, Thornberry said that arming the Ukranian military against Russian aggression would send a clear message of support for Kiev.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In his bill set to pass this week to overhaul how the Pentagon buys weapons, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee relied heavily on those with most at stake: the nation’s arms makers.

Defense contractors played a major role in crafting the proposal by Rep. Mac Thornberry designed to reform the Pentagon acquisition system, according to a POLITICO comparison of the legislation and industry proposals.

Some of the provisions in the Texas Republican’s bill could end up boosting company profits — at the expense of taxpayers.

For example, the bill would weaken the power of the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, an independent watchdog who answers directly to the secretary of defense and often uncovers flaws in big-ticket weapon systems. That was a provision proposed by the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents the nation’s leading defense and aerospace firms.

The legislation would encourage the defense secretary make sure contracting officials use the the standard of lowest price when choosing winning bids only in “appropriate circumstances” — potentially giving officials wide latitude to bypass a less expensive solution. That provision can be traced back to the National Defense Industrial Association, another influential trade group funded by Pentagon contractors. Thornberry’s staff also received input from major defense contractors like Boeing and Raytheon and trade groups like the Professional Services Council and the Information Technology Industry Council.

Some industry players aren’t bashful about the extent to which they shaped the bill.

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Dem lawmaker: Islamic radicals at ‘war’ with US – By Kristina Wong – 01/16/15 07:58 PM EST

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday that Islamic extremists were at war with the United States, and urged the Obama administration to adopt the same view.`

“I’m upset that the president and the White House…is not actually saying this is a war that the Islamic extremists are posing against the United States and against the West,” she said during an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room” Friday.

In the same interview, Gabbard referred to the threat posed by “this radical Islamic extremist agenda.”

The White House has tried to avoid using the phrase “radical Islam” when discussing the recent attack in Paris, in an attempt to disconnect the attackers from the broader religion.

“These are individuals who are terrorists. And what they did was they tried to invoke their own distorted, deviant view of Islam to try to justify them,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

But Gabbard, an Army National Guard captain, disagreed.

“We have to recognize that this is about radical Islam,” she said.

She also said a recent raid to disrupt an imminent terrorist plot in Belgium showed that the U.S. and its allies need to do more to stem the flow of extremists from Syria and Iraq back to Europe.

She said “there’s no question” that law enforcement in Western countries should be on heightened alert.

She also said the U.S. should immediately suspend a visa waiver program that allows for citizens of certain Western countries to travel to America without a visa.

“People are able to…get on a plane and come to States…who are part of this radical Islamic extremist movement,” she said.

Gabbard, who served in Iraq, also said that she found the country’s return to violence personally upsetting.

“It sickens me…like so many people I served with…we lost friends there that paid the ultimate price,” she said. “Our administration refuses to recognize who our enemy is.”

This story was updated at 8:29 p.m.

Budget ax hovering over the military – By Kristina Wong – 05/11/14 06:00 AM EDT

House lawmakers have rejected most of the Pentagon’s proposed cost-saving measures for next year, raising serious questions about how the military will stay under budget limits once sequestration returns in 2016.

The House Armed Services Committee this week passed a defense bill that rejected plans from the Pentagon to save billions of dollars by cutting an aircraft carrier, legacy aircraft, troop pay raises and benefits and excess bases.           

“By handcuffing the Pentagon, the Congress is forcing the military to become hollow,” said Todd Harrison, director of Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The Pentagon had proposed retiring an aircraft carrier in 2016 that would cost billions of dollars to keep in service, and had set that plan in motion by not putting any money towards maintenance and repair in 2015.

The House panel rejected that decision, allocating $796.2 million towards refueling and overhauling the carrier in 2015.

Still, it is unclear but it is unclear how the Pentagon would foot the rest of the bill, since the repair of the carrier is expected to cost as much as $6 billion over the next several years, and billions more in operations throughout its lifespan.

The effort to save the carrier was led by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), in whose state the carrier would be repaired.

The House panel also rejected a proposal to retire the Air Force’s A-10 fleet that would have saved more than $4 billion over the next five years, instead putting $635 million towards maintaining, operating and upgrading the planes in 2015.

The amendment to save the A-10 was led by Rep. Ron Barbour (D-Ariz.), who state is home to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and an A-10 fighter wing.

The panel also rejected reducing troop pay raises, reforming the military’s health care system, and reducing benefits that would have saved the Pentagon tens of billions of additional dollars.

The committee’s bill stays under the spending cap of $521.3 billion that lawmakers set for 2015, but puts off the budgetary decisions could force the Pentagon to take more drastic actions beginning in 2016.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Panel, criticized the bill, saying it “neglects to make some of the difficult choices necessary to confront our long-term fiscal challenges.”

Although the decision by lawmakers to punt on budget cuts will not have a major effect in 2015, it could create tough fiscal choices in the next Congress

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