September 19, 2014
Both the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government through December 11. The CR included language authorizing President Obama to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The House also passed HR 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act (a 13-bill energy package) and HR 4, the Jobs for America Act (a 14-bill jobs package). The President issued Statements of Administration Policy on HR 2 and HR 4 threatening to veto them in their current form. The Senate took up S 2199, the Paycheck Fairness Act, but failed to garner the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture. The Senate did pass S 2651, the DHS OIG Mandates Revision Act of 2014 as well as S 2141, the Sunscreen Innovation Act. The Senate also passed by voice vote the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act of 2014 (S 1691) and the Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act (S 2061), and passed by unanimous consent HR 4994, the IMPACT Act of 2014; HR 5404, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2014; S 1611, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Act of 2013; and S 2583, the E-LABEL Act (S. 2583), among others. And on Thursday, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, appeared before a joint session of Congress and appealed to members to provide more assistance, including military equipment, to aid his government’s fight against Russian-backed separatists.
The House and Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government through December 11. The House passed the CR by a vote of 319 to 108, while the Senate passed it by a vote of 78 to 22. The CR funds federal agencies at the current annual spending rate of $1.012 trillion.
The CR included authorization language providing President Obama the authority to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). A separate vote in the House on the amendment made it easier for members to vote against the ISIS language but not the CR. The House passed the amendment by a vote of 273 to 156. The administration’s authority to train those fighters will run out on Dec. 11. A copy of the amendment can be found at:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued for a longer CR funding the government into the 114th Congress assuming that the Senate would have a greater number of Republicans in the next Congress. While he wasn’t successful now, it is a possibility that if Republicans make gains in the November election they will push to punt spending decisions into next year. The White House and Appropriators would oppose those efforts and instead support passage of an omnibus spending bill in the lame duck session.
The Defense Department on Tuesday submitted a reprogramming request to Congress seeking permission to shift $500 million to efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including plans related to the construction of 17 treatment centers for those infected by the deadly virus. The funds would come from unobligated funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations account. The $500 million would be in addition to $88 million in new funding sought in the continuing resolution that would go largely to domestic agencies.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released an unclassified version of their “Inquiry into Cyber Intrusions Affecting U.S. Transportation Command Contractors” report this week. The committee unanimously approved the classified version of the report this spring. After a year-long investigation, SASC staff found that in a 12-month period (6/1/12-5/31/13) there were about 50 intrusions or other cyber events into the computer networks of US Transportation Command contractors. Of those 50, 20 can be attributed to hackers associated with the Chinese government, but TRANSCOM was only aware of two of those intrusions. They also found gaps in reporting requirements and a lack of information sharing among government entities that left the command largely unaware of computer compromises by China of contractors that are key to the mobilization and deployment of military forces.
In response to the investigation’s findings, the committee included a provision in its version of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act directed at addressing reporting gaps and improving the way in which the Department disseminates information about cyber intrusions into the computer networks of operationally critical contractors. Specifically, the provision directs the Secretary of Defense to establish procedures for designating companies as ‘‘operationally critical contractors’’ and tightening requirements that those contractors report successful cyber penetrations by known or suspected government actors. It also requires DoD to establish new procedures to assist contractors in detecting and mitigating cyber threats while ensuring protections for trade secrets, commercial or financial information. The provision requires the Secretary to assess existing reporting requirements and DoD policies and systems for sharing information on cyber intrusions. It also requires the Secretary to designate a single DoD component to receive intrusion reports from contractors and other government agencies and to issue guidance ensuring that intrusion-related information is shared with appropriate DoD components.
A copy of the report can be found at:
FY15 National Defense Authorization Act
While the Senate has not passed its annual defense authorization bill this year, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) started an informal conference committee process this week. Members of the HASC and SASC had a chance this week to discuss their defense authorization priorities with House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) this week. The closed, pre-conference general policy panel meeting is being done now as the House and Senate will have little time to reconcile their differences in a final measure when they return for the lame duck session November 12.
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, released a draft of DOD’s Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) this morning. The BBP initiative seeks to improve the Department of Defense’s procurement process by providing more incentives for contractors to meet cost and schedule goals, remove some barriers to buying commercial products, incorporate more input from the intelligence community into requirements for future weapons, expanding the Superior Supplier Incentive Program, and getting draft requirements out earlier and incorporating industry feedback into final solicitations. Kendall said that after receiving feedback on the draft he expects to release a final version of BBP 3.0 in January.
A copy of the interim release of BBP 3.0 can be found at:
Lame Duck Schedule
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced this week that following the conclusion of the current work period, the Senate is expected to return to session on Wednesday, November 12, 2014. Orientation and Leadership elections will be conducted November 12 through 14 and Senators should expect votes starting November 12. The House calendar released at the beginning of this year has the House also reconvening on November 12 and remaining in session through December 12.
The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Democrats attempting to remove their candidate, Chad Taylor from the ballot in Kansas’ Senate race. Taylor’s withdrawal from the race clears a path for Independent candidate Greg Orman to challenge the incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) making this a potentially competitive race.
President Obama nominated Robert Sher to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities at the Department of Defense. Sher is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, a position he has held since 2012. Scher has also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Asia and Pacific, and as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the Department of State. He began his career in public service as a Presidential Management Intern in 1992, serving as a Special Assistant to an Assistant Secretary of Defense. If confirmed, Sher would succeed Madelyn Creedon who left the post this summer to be principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The Senate voted to confirm the nominations of Linda Schwartz to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Policy and Planning, Gordon Tanner to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force, Debra Wada to be an Assistant Secretary of the Army, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall to be Deputy Secretary of Energy, Robert Holleyman to be a Deputy United States Trade Representative, Eric Rosenbach to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, Nathan Sheets to be an Under Secretary of the Treasury, Charles Fulghum to be Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Alfonso Lenhardt to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and Thomas Frieden to be US Representative to the World Health Organization.
Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel announced that he is departing his post at the White House to join the US Agency for International Developments Ebola response team. In his new role as USAID chief innovation officer, VanRoekel will be responsible for advising the agency on using technology and data in its response to the epidemic. VanRoekel has served as the federal CIO since August 2011. Lisa Schlosser, one of VanRoekel’s deputies, will oversee the Office of E-Government and Information Technology until the White House names a permanent replacement.
The Department of Defense appointed retired Lt. Gen. Frances C. Wilson, US Marine Corps, to serve as the chairperson of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). Wilson spent nearly 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and served as the president of National Defense University and as the commandant, Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Since retiring in 2009, she has been part of various organizations in the Virginia Tidewater area, serving as an appointed member of the City of Virginia Beach Mayor’s Military Economic Development Advisory Committee, and as the chair, board of directors, Hampton Roads and Central Virginia USO. She was appointed by the Virginia governor as a member of the board of trustees, Fort Monroe Authority, and board of visitors, Virginia Military Institute. Wilson has also been a DACOWITS member since June 2012. She succeeds Holly Hemphill of Alexandria, Virginia.
The House and Senate are in recess until November 12.