defense

Senate confirms Esper to be Defense secretary
The vote ends an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders

Chiarman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 16, 2019. He was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Mark Esper to be the next Defense secretary, 90-8, bringing to an end an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders.

Esper, who has served as Army secretary since 2017, follows James Mattis as President Donald Trump’s second Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

What counts as ‘foundational’ tech?
As Commerce gears up for export debate, definitions remain in dispute

An attendee participates in a augmented reality demonstration to show how lidar, or light detection and ranging, works during a briefing on autonomous vehicles in June. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

In the coming weeks, the Commerce Department plans to announce a notice seeking comments on how it should draw up export control rules for so-called foundational technologies, similar to an effort the agency launched in November 2018 for a category called “emerging” technologies.

The rules were mandated after Congress passed the 2019 defense authorization act calling on the Commerce Department to establish export controls on “emerging and foundational technologies” that are critical to U.S. national security. But tech companies, universities, and research labs across the country continue to be alarmed that overly broad export restrictions could ultimately hurt American technological superiority.

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, left, and Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley are heading to the Pentagon, where their presence could give the embattled service a new place of prominence. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

Road ahead: All eyes on the budget and debt limit deal, except when Mueller testifies
House to tackle border issues, while Senate will confirm Defense secretary, clear 9/11 compensation bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to clear the debt deal this week before the chamber departs for the August recess. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

All eyes this week will be on whether House lawmakers are able to pass a deal to raise the debt limit and set spending levels for the next two years before leaving for the August recess on Friday.

That is except, of course, when former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III seizes all the attention when he testifies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Trump: US shoots down Iranian drone in Strait of Hormuz
‘The drone was immediately destroyed,’ the president said

President Donald Trump and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) talk to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. According to the Dutch government, the two leaders will discuss defense and security cooperation, especially focused on whether the Netherlands will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump said U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone that was operating too close to an American vessel.

Trump said the drone was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz, an important shipping lane that provides the only access to open ocean from the Persian Gulf. He called on other countries to condemn Iran and protect their own ships.

Secret Service pressed for plan to avoid future Mar-a-Lago security breaches
A 33-year-old Chinese woman was arrested with malware, other suspicious items

President Donald Trump walks to speak with supporters after arriving on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort on April 18, 2019. ( Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Three senior Senate Democrats are pressing the U.S. Secret Service on whether security has been beefed up at President Donald Trump’s Florida and New Jersey resorts after a 33-year-old Chinese woman talked her way into his Mar-a-Lago property while he was there.

Yujing Zhang, 33, pleaded not guilty on charges of trespassing and lying to U.S. Secret Service agents after being arrested March 30 at the president’s Florida resort. When searched, she was found carrying a pair of passports, four mobile devices, a laptop computer, a thumb drive allegedly containing malware and one external hard drive.

Armed Services panel to huddle on three top Pentagon nominees
Joint Chiefs vice chairman nominee faces stiff headwinds

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a closed-door meeting Thursday, is expected to approve the president’s choice for Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and to discuss the embattled nomination of the Air Force general tapped to be the military’s No. 2 general, committee members and staff said Wednesday.

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief, clearing the way for a Senate vote in the coming days to confirm him. The panel is also expected to send to the floor the nomination of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman.

Defense conferees to decide fate of firearms export oversight
Decision nears on blocking the Trump administration from weakening regulations on the export of firearms

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif. added an amendment restricting the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Among the many thorny issues Senate and House negotiators have to hash out as they negotiate a final annual defense policy bill this summer is whether to block the Trump administration from weakening regulations around the export of firearms.

The House version of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization measure contains a provision that would restrict the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department.

Pelosi, Mnuchin appear close to spending caps, debt limit deal
Agreement would likely include a two-year extension of the debt limit and spending levels

Pelosi reiterated Tuesday her view that in addition to "parity" for nondefense and defense spending increases, funding should be added for Department of Veterans Affairs health care. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are close to making an announcement about spending caps and the debt limit.

“We have a clear understanding of what we want to agree to, and I think that's progress,” Pelosi said Tuesday afternoon after speaking with Mnuchin, who was preparing to leave Wednesday for the G-7 meeting in France. “We'll have an announcement about something soon, one way or the other.”

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

Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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.