Today's Headlines and Commentary

Tara Hofbauer
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 12:08 PM
In the final days of the 113th Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives will likely pass a new defense authorization bill. According to the National Journal, the NDAA will reach the House floor this week and arrive at the Senate early next week.

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In the final days of the 113th Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives will likely pass a new defense authorization bill. According to the National Journal, the NDAA will reach the House floor this week and arrive at the Senate early next week. Although the legislative leadership hopes to approve the bill without amendments, proposals for military sexual assault reform and sending arms to Ukraine may complicate the process. Defense News considers some specific provisions contained in the defense authorization bill. Of note are measures blocking retirement of the Air Force’s A-10 attack plane fleet and authorizing funds for training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels. The bill also blocks certain transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the drafting of the new NDAA has been “a genuine bipartisan process,” and as such, compromise is necessary. The President intends “to evaluate the whole package,” though “in the past [he has]... signed legislation that included this language.” The Hill has more. Yesterday, Wells shared news that former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter will reportedly be nominated to serve as the 25th U.S. Secretary of Defense. According to the National Journal, Carter will experience a smooth confirmation process. Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator John McCain, have all voiced their support for Carter. Foreign Policy examines Carter’s career and previous tenure at the Defense Department. The Washington Post considers the challenges that the new Defense Secretary will face in dealing with the administration and managing morale. CNN reports that the White House had wanted a nominee in place before announcing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s resignation, “but Hagel refused to wait, deciding if the White House was going to push him out, he wanted to make his resignation known as quickly as possible.” According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State has seriously hurt the militant group’s fighting ability. So far, coalition airstrikes have hurt the jihadists’ leadership apparatus and hamstrung their “logistical and operational capabilities.” It is much more difficult now for the Islamic State to “assemble forces in strength, to travel in convoys, and to launch concerted attacks.” Reuters shares the Secretary’s statements. Apparently, the U.S.-led coalition has also driven the Islamic State “crazy with paranoia.” Last week, militants suspended cell-phone service indefinitely in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. There, citizens have been phoning in tips and intelligence, which coalition forces relied upon to select strike targets. McClatchy reports that “the [recent cell-phone] blackout in Mosul has been harder to get around [for U.S. commanders], though ultimately, it’s likely to be a positive in the long run.” With that said, cutting off mobile phone service will only “infuriate” Mosul residents. Reuters examines the vetting process used by the U.S. government to determine which Syrian rebel groups to train and arm. Yesterday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced his intention to propose legislation sanctioning Iran. Foreign Policy reports that such action could jeopardize P5+1 nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic. Although international sanctions have been unable to stop Moscow’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, they have significantly hurt the Russian economy, according to Secretary Kerry. Indeed, Reuters notes that Russia is expected to enter a recession in 2015. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski returned to Bahrain yesterday after being expelled from the country in July. The Associated Press shares the story. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released a statement today, declaring her intention to propose legislation regulating private drone use and U.S. airspace. On a lighter note - the Onion shares “statements” from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s TEDTalk on the state of global terrorism. During his 18-minute speech, al-Zawahiri considered, “What happens when your terrorist organization’s overseas assets are frozen? Do you you lash out, behead a journalist, and destroy an Amsterdam bus station? Or do you regroup, assess the situation, see if you can make a connection—a very real, very honest, very genuine connection—with another terrorist group, and together figure out a way to acquire a nuclear weapon? Connections, folks. Both personal and professional. That’s really what we’re talking about today.” Food for thought, indeed.

ICYMI: Yesterday, On Lawfare

Wells shared a letter written by Senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn, registering their concern with regard to a proposal to destroy records of CIA emails. Paul considered House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s proposed “Cyber Supply Chain Management and Transparency Act.” Wells brought us news that President Obama will nominate former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to succeed Chuck Hagel as U.S. Secretary of Defense. Ben returned to his analysis of the ACLU’s amicus brief in Elonis v. U.S. Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Tara Hofbauer previously was an intern with Lawfare. She is majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, with a minor in Legal Studies and History.

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