Mac Thornberry

The Other North Korean Threat: Chemical and Biological Weapons
Pentagon acknowledges armed forces are not ready

If North Korea were to attack with chemical and biological weapons, the Pentagon is not confident it is adequately prepared. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Now that the Singapore summit of President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un is in the rearview mirror, major questions remain, particularly about the part of North Korea’s doomsday arsenal that Pyongyang’s military is most likely to use in a war, one that can potentially kill millions of people, and one for which the U.S. military is woefully unprepared: chemical and biological arms.

Nuclear weapons will continue to be the top concern. But they are far from the only one. Specifically, U.S. forces in the region lack sufficient medical countermeasures, protective gear and technology to identify so-called chem-bio agents, Pentagon insiders say. And the troops are insufficiently trained, manned and equipped for such a fight, according to previously unreported Pentagon audits and Army officials. Only about 1 in 3 of the Army’s special units that deal with doomsday agents is fully prepared, the service confirmed.

Analysis: What Matters Most in the NDAA
Obscurities and omissions define this year’s defense authorization bill

In this year’s NDAA, House Armed Services Mac Thornberry has required cuts to agencies that handle logistics, human resources and services contracting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The massive defense authorization bill approved by the House Armed Services panel early Thursday morning is a consequential measure — but not for the reasons most people think.

The $708.1 billion bill, which the House plans to debate the week of May 21, would endorse the largest budget for defense since World War II, adjusting for inflation and when war spending is taken out of the equation.

7 Lawmakers Who Opposed Iran Deal and Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From It
Democrats and Republicans worry about message move sends to allies and even North Korea

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., opposed the original Iran deal but also opposes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal drew criticism from somewhat unexpected sources — lawmakers who opposed the deal then-President Barack Obama brokered in 2015. 

The following seven lawmakers are a sampling of those who stand by their opposition to the deal but believe walking away from it now is a bad move that sends a signal to other countries that the U.S. is not a reliable negotiating partner. Some worry about the impact Trump’s decision could have on upcoming negotiations with North Korea over its own nuclear arsenal. 

Trump Pulls Out of Iran Deal, Reimposes Sanctions
Calls current agreement decaying and rotten

President Donald Trump addresses the press before departing for Dallas, Texas where he would make an appearance at the National Rifle Association convention on May 4, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would reimpose sanctions on Iran, dealing a likely fatal blow to the 2015 multinational nuclear deal and upsetting European countries, Democrats and even some Republicans.

But though Trump’s action is aimed at punishing Iran, it is anger from U.S. allies, especially France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, that could most affect the United States in the coming weeks and months.

Nuclear Weapons, Border Wall, Military Parade Among NDAA Issues
Trump’s priorities are driving unusually partisan debate on this year’s defense authorization act

President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego in March. His priorities are driving much of the discussion around this year’s NDAA. (Evan Vucci/AP file photo)

The House Armed Services Committee will debate dozens of amendments to the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill during its marathon markup on Wednesday, when lawmakers could introduce a wide variety of proposals, such as authorizing the Pentagon to develop new nuclear weapons and allowing transgender troops to serve in the military.

The legislation, commonly referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, typically draws broad bipartisan support. But the markup is likely to include debate on some of the most controversial defense issues, including transgender troops, low-yield nuclear weapons and downsizing the Pentagon’s civilian workforce.

Mattis Lists Budget Priorities, Warns Against Another Stopgap
Another CR would hurt national security, almost everyone agrees at Tuesday hearing

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review were crafted on the “assumption that timely and efficient funding” would be delivered to the Pentagon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal 2019 will ask Congress to fund a spate of new high-tech weaponry as well as more traditional military programs, Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers Tuesday.

The proposal, which the Pentagon plans to send to Congress next week, will seek funds for space and cyber operations, nuclear deterrent forces, missile defense, advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence capabilities and professional military education.

House GOP Plan Likely to Set Up Funding Bill Volley with Senate
House Democrats retreat may fall victim to latest funding strategy

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said the plan to fully fund the Defense Department through the end of fiscal 2018 while keeping the remaining agencies running on a stopgap schedule was “the right move.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republican leaders on Monday finally agreed to execute a government funding strategy conservatives and defense hawks have been pushing for months: fully fund the Department of Defense through the end of fiscal 2018 while keep the remaining agencies running through a fifth a stopgap measure.

The play call in advance of the Feb. 8 government funding deadline all but assures a volley with the Senate, which is expected to reject the House GOP measure.

Opinion: They Voted for Caps. Now They Want More Defense Spending
Sequestration was supposed to be so simple, but all it did was make a giant mess for defense

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry is among the many lawmakers who voted for sequestration in the form of the Budget Control Act of 2011 but who now call for hikes in defense spending. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address asked Congress to lift the “sequester cap” on defense spending. That same week, a bipartisan majority in the House, in a symbolic but important act, voted to reaffirm a cap-busting defense level for fiscal 2018. So the expectation is that defense spending will increase this year.

Leave aside for a moment the increasingly embarrassing spectacle of a Congress unable to carry out one of its most basic constitutional tasks — appropriating money to fund the government — and consider what comes next. If the fiscal 2018 defense bill ever becomes law, how will the additional money be spent?

Military Not Ready for the Next Larger War, Experts Say
Complaints about continuing resolutions feature in House Armed Services Committee testimony

National security experts expressed concern last week that the U.S. has fallen behind Russia and China in key areas of military preparedness. (Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense)

While the U.S. military is ready for another Iraq War or Syria-like intervention, it is unprepared to fight a war against bigger challengers such as China or Russia, national security experts told House lawmakers last week.

The Pentagon needs to shift its focus away from the smaller regional conflicts it has specialized in to fight terrorism, the experts said, and refocus itself, and U.S. allies, on these potential future wars with larger adversaries.

Analysis: Memo Mania Consumes Press Coverage of GOP Retreat
Looming government and funding deadlines also overshadow broader 2018 agenda plans

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conduct a news conference at the media center during the GOP retreat in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Anyone looking for news about the 2018 Republican agenda being shaped during a joint House and Senate GOP retreat here might struggle to find it. All reporters wanted to talk about Thursday was “the memo.” 

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a break from their Thursday agenda planning sessions on topics such as infrastructure, workforce development and government and budget process changes to answer questions from reporters. But none of the questions asked during their news conference were about those topics.