Obama’s budget request will reflect his new strategy, which means more spending on fighting terrorism and modern threats using intelligence and drones, cybersecurity, and special-operations forces, while checking China’s efforts to keep U.S. ships far at sea—and less for a massive land war or counterinsurgency like Afghanistan.
While big-ticket items like the fabled F-35 fighter and Navy ships are on the table, DOD wants to downsize, station fewer troops overseas, likely raise health care rates, and tinker with skyrocketing benefits and retirement costs. Expect a heavy hand here by lawmakers and interest groups making sure the United States does right by its defenders.
Quietly, industry officials are waiting to see the Pentagon’s bottom line. Others aren’t: Boeing will eliminate its aircraft factory in Kansas and thousands of jobs, anticipating leaner years. Expect defense jobs to drive House GOP concerns—and arms industry lobbying.
Congress has taken the wheel on expanding sanctions for Iran. The House passed a new bill in December—the Senate Banking Committee is expected to introduce its own version—expanding sanctions against affiliates of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and ships that have passed through Iran, Syria, or North Korea.
“We expect that most, if not all, of the current provisions would still be reflected in the final draft,” said a knowledgeable Senate aide.
As for war, as U.S. officials seek peace with the Taliban, others are working on a long-term agreement for Afghanistan’s security that has NATO and others shouldering a great share of costs. The goals: Sign before economies worsen; devise the endgame for fighting by 2014, if not sooner; and get an Afghan agreement for a longer American presence. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey want an agreement ready for May’s NATO heads-of-state summit in Chicago.
They’ll have to sell that to Congress, too, if anyone’s there to listen. One senior staffer said he expects key committee members will mostly be focused on another battle: campaigning.
All Things Cyber
Leaders in both chambers have promised to move forward with wide-ranging cybersecurity legislation this year. While the intent may be clear, the details remain murky.
Reid plans to bring comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to the floor during the first month of work. Various pieces of draft legislation have been making the rounds, and one of Reid’s senior aides said last week that the working groups, which are developing the bill, are on track to introduce legislation in a matter of weeks.
Potential proposals include clarifying the role and authority of government agencies to tackle cyberthreats, defining what “critical infrastructure” may warrant additional government protection, and finding ways to increase information sharing between the government and corporations.
While the Senate plans to tackle cybersecurity in a comprehensive bill, the House may be taking a more roundabout approach. In October, the House Republican Cybersecurity Task Force proposed developing smaller pieces of legislation in the various standing committees, which could be packaged into a larger bill.
“We are generally skeptical of large, ‘comprehensive’ bills on complex topics, at least as the bills are being written,” the task force wrote in its report.
House members have proposed several bills, including one from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., that aims to allow the government to share more information with businesses. Another measure, in the House Homeland Security Committee, addresses cybersecurity authority among federal agencies and outlines ways to protect “critical infrastructure”—such as power grids and water systems—from cyberattacks.
But the Homeland Security Committee’s senior counsel, Kevin Gronberg, said it is unclear what will happen to the legislation if it is approved by the committee.
Congress will also continue work in the second session on legislation that would free up more spectrum to meet the public’s growing demand for wireless technologies.
The spectrum legislation is likely to be part of the larger debate over whether to pass a one-year extension of the payroll-tax holiday. The House included spectrum legislation in last month’s payroll-tax package. Some conferees are key spectrum debate players, including Upton; Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif.; and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. Congressional leaders will have to decide whether to stick with the House Energy and Commerce GOP bill, which most of the panel’s Democrats opposed, or include provisions from the bipartisan spectrum legislation approved last summer by the Senate Commerce Committee.
Kevin Baron, Amy Harder, Stacy Kaper, Meghan McCarthy, Josh Smith, and Sara Sorcher contributed
This article appears in the Jan. 23, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.