Andrew Clevenger

As NDAA talks drag on, Inhofe readies pared-down bill
Negotiators have largely stayed mum on unresolved conference issues

Pentagon caught in a political fight over impeachment inquiry
Defense officials have rejected congressional demands for information on withholding of Ukraine aid

ANALYSIS — Rather than stay out of the fray, the Defense Department has taken sides in a bitter and historic partisan brawl, choosing to fortify President Donald Trump’s stonewall rather than cooperate with Congress.

The Pentagon is a key player in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. And defense officials, who have until now been largely unscathed by the investigation, have rejected congressional demands for information about their role in the White House decision to withhold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Esper, other Defense Department officials not on Ukraine call, Pentagon says
Pentagon faces heightened scrutiny in aftermath of whistleblower complaint

No one from the Defense Department was listening in on President Donald Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said Thursday.

The Defense Department’s general counsel has advised Pentagon officials to preserve documents and communications relating to the Ukrainian security assistance program, Jonathan Hoffman said during a briefing with reporters. That move, however, was made out of an abundance of caution.

Thornberry retirement latest shakeup on House Armed Services Committee
Former chairman is sixth Republican to announce plans to retire from the committee

Rep. Mac Thornberry on Monday became the sixth Republican on the House Armed Services Committee to announce plans to retire at the end of this Congress, creating openings for ambitious younger members but also leaving a significant dearth of experience on the powerful panel.

Thornberry, a Texas Republican who spent two terms as Armed Services chairman before becoming ranking member after Democrats won control of the House, has been an ardent backer of higher Pentagon spending levels and a reliable hawk on policy matters ranging from the size of the Navy fleet to the nuclear arsenal.

Mac Thornberry joins Republican ‘Texodus’ from House
Top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee to retire rather than seek 14th term

Rep. Mac Thornberry is the latest Texas Republican to head for the exits, announcing Monday that he is not running for reelection. The 13-term lawmaker is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

Thornberry was facing GOP term limits on the committee, having served two previous terms as chairman before the start of the current Congress, where he became the ranking member after Democrats took over the House.

The art of the ask: Foreign aid isn’t a campaign ‘slush fund’
Trump’s Ukraine request deviates from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach

Arms sales and foreign aid have long been a part of the United States’ carrot-and-stick approach to foreign policy. But President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader is something entirely different.

Making access to American weapons or dollars contingent upon behaviors that support U.S. interests is standard procedure.

House votes to end national emergency on southern border
Senate passed measure earlier this week, but Trump all but certain to veto it.

The House voted Friday to end President Donald Trump’s national emergency along the southern border, but without a sufficient enough margin to overcome an all-but-certain veto.

With 11 Republicans joining them, 224 Democrats (and independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan) voted 236-174 to terminate the emergency, which Trump declared Feb. 15. All of the “no” votes came from Republicans.

2020 hopefuls ditch Senate vote to end border emergency in favor of trail
The Senate voted to end the southern border emergency declaration but without sufficient votes to override a presidential veto

The Senate voted Wednesday to end the national emergency declaration on the southern border but without sufficient votes to override an all-but-inevitable presidential veto.

Eleven Republicans joined 43 Democrats in support of ending the emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to repurpose $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction projects. That money has been diverted to border wall construction.

Defense secretary focused on filling Pentagon vacancies
Five candidates to fill senior Pentagon positions will have confirmation hearings in the coming weeks

Newly installed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper wants to waste no time assembling his team at the Pentagon.

Five candidates will have confirmation hearings in the coming weeks, and another eight are being vetted by the White House, Esper told reporters Wednesday during a rare on-camera briefing with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.

Pentagon assembles team of intellectual property experts
Questions linger about how to properly compensate defense industry for data

The Defense Department is on the verge of standing up a new cadre of intellectual property experts to help the Pentagon negotiate rights to valuable data and other IP from defense contractors, the department’s top weapons buyer said Monday.

“We need to go on the offense to protect our technology, versus merely acting defensively,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, said during a briefing with reporters.

Border emergency hits six months; ball back in Congress’ court
Lawmakers may again try to terminate Trump's declaration allowing him to shift funds for wall construction

Thursday marks six months since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border, a notable anniversary because it gives Congress another shot at ending it.

The flashpoint in the debate remains funding for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, a prominent pledge made during Trump’s 2016 presidential bid that now hangs over the 2020 campaign.

Women push for greater role in the national security establishment
Leadership Council for Women in National Security is making it a campaign issue

Many women in the country’s emerging class of national security and foreign policy leaders came into their fields assuming the sexism that stifled careers in earlier generations was a thing of the past.

They quickly learned, however, that the upper ranks of the country’s national security apparatus was still very much a boys club.

Senate confirms four-star general, inches forward another despite sexual assault allegations
The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Senate on Thursday voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just hours after the Armed Services Committee decided to move forward with Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be the military’s No. 2 officer despite lingering questions about allegations of sexual assault.

The progress on the Joint Chiefs nominees comes as senators try to firm up leadership at the Pentagon, which has been in a state of transition for months.

Norquist appears to be on fast track to become Pentagon’s No. 2
Senators from both sides of the aisle said they looked forward to voting for him

David Norquist, President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy Defense secretary, sailed through his confirmation hearing Wednesday, with senators from both sides of the aisle saying they looked forward to voting for him.

Norquist was confirmed by the Senate to be the Pentagon’s comptroller in 2017 and has been the acting deputy Defense secretary since January.

Army in ascendance with leaders poised for top Pentagon posts
Mark Esper and Mark Milley expected to give service a place of new prominence

Army Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the service’s chief, will soon take their partnership to the highest levels of the Pentagon as both men are poised for speedy confirmation to be the next Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

Their close working relationship could help provide stability at the Pentagon, where many of the top jobs are filled by acting heads. Meanwhile, their deep ties to the Army could give the sometimes embattled service — which has struggled for two decades to modernize its force and adapt to a new era of warfare — a place of new prominence in the Pentagon.

Esper on path for quick confirmation despite Raytheon ties
The former lobbyist stressed Tuesday that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military

Mark Esper, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, defended his work as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, stressing that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military.

During an otherwise uncontentious hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, sparred with Esper on his ties to the Massachusetts-based defense giant and implored the nominee to recuse himself from any decisions affecting the firm, which he declined to do.

House votes Friday on war powers and border amendments
Republicans and progressives alike voiced deep reservations this week about the typically bipartisan measure

The House soldiered on through hundreds of amendments to the annual defense policy bill Thursday, but major issues — including authorization to use force and military involvement on the southern border — remain unresolved, as does the ultimate fate of the bill.

Lawmakers plan to vote on some of the most controversial amendments, as well as final passage of the measure Friday morning. Republicans and progressives alike voiced deep reservations this week about the typically bipartisan measure, and it is unclear that the last two days of debate assuaged their concerns.

Pentagon readies for third acting secretary this year
The massive bureaucracy is preparing for its third acting secretary — Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — since January

President Donald Trump is expected to formally nominate the Pentagon’s acting chief, Mark Esper, for Defense secretary soon, a move that will send him back to his old job at least temporarily.

And so the massive bureaucracy is preparing for its third acting secretary — Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — since January.

Democrats respond with relief to Trump calling off Iran attack
The reaction was mixed, with some renewing objections to military engagement without prior congressional approval

Democratic response varied Friday to President Donald Trump saying he called off an airstrike against Iran at the last minute, with some renewing their objections to military engagement with Iran without prior congressional approval and others approving of the pull back.

Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., have been leading an effort to attach an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require Congress to vote to authorize the use of force before the administration could take military action against Iran.

The Pentagon has a leadership vacuum at the top as tensions with Iran rise
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 158

The departure of acting Defense Department Secretary Patrick Shanahan raises questions about who is advising President Donald Trump, who pulled back a planned military strike on Iran this week, says CQ defense reporter Andrew Clevenger in this episode of the CQ on Congress podcast. And Chris Lu, who served as Barack Obama's liaison to his Cabinet, says Trump's apparent preference for churn among his agency heads gives him more power to direct policy on his own.