Eight Challenges Awaiting the Pentagon in 2014

The new year promises to bring more challenges as the military continues to redefine and reshape itself for a post-war era.

U.S. Marines walk on top of their Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) while on patrol near the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 16, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
National Journal
Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
Jan. 2, 2014, 7:06 a.m.

The Pentagon was busy in 2013. A new de­fense sec­ret­ary took the helm, the U.S. went to the brink of war with Syr­ia, budget polit­ics con­tin­ued to frus­trate mil­it­ary lead­ers, and the war in Afgh­anistan reached a crit­ic­al mo­ment be­fore its fi­nale. And 2014 prom­ises to bring more chal­lenges as the mil­it­ary con­tin­ues to re­define and re­shape it­self for a post-war era by con­front­ing new threats abroad and nav­ig­at­ing the battle for re­sources at home in Wash­ing­ton.

Here’s a look at what’s on the ho­ri­zon for 2014:

AFGH­ANISTAN

There war in Afgh­anistan will change rap­idly and dra­mat­ic­ally in 2014. Pres­id­ent Barack Obama has prom­ised to with­draw U.S. troops by the end of next year, of­fi­cially end­ing the war. The U.S. wants a bi­lat­er­al se­cur­ity agree­ment inked by the New Year’s Eve, but the ne­go­ti­ations likely will spill in­to next year. By Feb­ru­ary, the num­ber of U.S. troops there is set to drop to 34,000, down from just un­der 50,000. A new Afghan pres­id­ent will be elec­ted in April. And at Septem­ber’s sum­mit, NATO heads of state will agree on a fi­nal post-war plan for Afgh­anistan. But Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai has placed new de­mands on the U.S. over con­duct­ing raids on Afghan homes and ne­go­ti­at­ing a peace deal with the Taliban, and he said he wants to wait un­til April’s elec­tion to al­low the next Afghan pres­id­ent to ap­prove the deal. De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said there may be more time, point­ing to Feb­ru­ary’s NATO de­fense min­is­ters meet­ing as a cru­cial dead­line to put plans in place for next year’s draw­down. There’s also the fate of stalled peace talks with the Taliban. How many U.S. troops Obama de­cides to leave in Afgh­anistan, per­haps about 10,000, per­haps to zero as he did in Ir­aq, re­mains to be seen.

SYR­IA

Head­ing in­to 2014, crit­ic­al lib­er­al and con­ser­vat­ive U.S. for­eign policy lead­ers say Obama’s Syr­ia policy ““ and the war it­self ““ is in “dis­ar­ray.” The U.S. threatened mil­it­ary ac­tion against Syr­ia this sum­mer after the As­sad re­gime was found to have used chem­ic­al weapons against its people. Obama drew a red line and sent Navy ships to the re­gion. But with the mil­it­ary ready to fire on As­sad, Obama sur­prised many by tak­ing his case to Con­gress, first. Con­gress ““ and the Amer­ic­an people ““ said no to an­oth­er Amer­ic­an mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in the Middle East. In­stead, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry struck a deal al­low­ing Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad to des­troy his most leth­al chem­ic­al weapons, like mus­tard gas and sar­in, by Dec. 31. That dead­line has already been pushed in­to next year. “It will be quite dif­fi­cult to meet this timeline,” Ah­met Uzum­cu, dir­ect­or-gen­er­al of the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons, said. The rest of the stock­pile is sup­posed to be re­moved by Feb. 5. The New Year will also open with peace talks sched­uled for Jan. 22 in Geneva, but ma­jor op­pos­i­tion groups may boy­cott the meet­ing. The civil war in Syr­ia will enter its third year on March 15. There’s hope that 2014 could be the year that a res­ol­u­tion is reached ““ but that seems in­creas­ingly un­likely as a large num­ber of for­eign and Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ist fight­ers have con­flated the con­flict, threatened re­gion­al sta­bil­ity, and left As­sad de­term­ined to stay in power. A rebel fight­er burns a Syr­i­an flag found in a build­ing that be­longed to Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces, Novem­ber 21, 2013. (Mah­mud al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Im­ages)

BUDGET

The Sen­ate is on the verge of passing a budget deal that will give the Pentagon a little cer­tainty go­ing in­to the New Year. The deal will put off se­quester cuts for two years. Even with the last-minute deal, Pentagon lead­ers will ring in the New Year and im­me­di­ately get right back to the budget battle. The fisc­al year 2015 budget will be re­vealed; plan­ners have been build­ing sev­er­al budgets based on sev­er­al scen­ari­os. And the Pentagon’s eagerly awaited Quad­ren­ni­al De­fense Re­view, which sets the mil­it­ary’s strategy for the fu­ture, is also due next year. The cli­mate in Wash­ing­ton isn’t ex­pec­ted to im­prove any time soon ““ and midterm elec­tions are sure to shake things up — so 2014 will con­tin­ue to be a struggle for the Pentagon’s top lead­ers as they con­tin­ue to move from the “blank check” era of the past dec­ade to its new post-war pos­ture.

ASIA-PA­CIFIC

The Pentagon’s slow and gradu­al pivot to the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion will con­tin­ue in 2014, when Hagel is ex­pec­ted to vis­it Beijing ““ even as threats and chal­lenges evolve in the Middle East and North Africa, and the war in Afgh­anistan heats up be­fore it comes to an end. Des­pite those hot­spots, Pentagon and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in­sist that the pivot, a dir­ect­ive from Obama’s first term, is real and re­mains a top pri­or­ity. But while num­bers of ships and troops is not dra­mat­ic­ally shift­ing, stra­tegic re­la­tion­ships in the re­gion are. The U.S. con­tin­ues to win sup­port for its pivot with South­east Asi­an mil­it­ary lead­ers, who have wel­comed the ad­ded Amer­ic­an se­cur­ity lay­er and are sign­ing deals for in­creased mil­it­ary ac­cess without costly bases. At the same time, ten­sions on some his­tor­ic fault lines are in­creas­ing, not de­creas­ing, des­pite Amer­ic­an pleas for calm. China’s self-pro­claimed air de­fense zone has angered Ja­pan, while South Korea vows to strike back the next pro­voca­tion from North Korea, which has grown even less pre­dict­able. Still, oth­er emer­ging threats such as ter­ror­ism, cy­ber, space and home­land se­cur­ity will con­tin­ue to com­pete for at­ten­tion with what Pentagon lead­ers in­creas­ingly ad­mit is the primary reas­on for Amer­ica’s east­ward fo­cus: eco­nom­ic power.

TER­ROR­ISM

The glob­al war on ter­ror that began after the 9/11 at­tacks will con­tin­ue in­to 2014. The rise of ex­trem­ism and the mi­gra­tion of ter­ror groups Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Is­lam­ic Maghreb from Kenya to Syr­ia are keep­ing the Pentagon busy. And next year is a pivotal year as the Au­thor­iz­a­tion to Use Mil­it­ary Force, the agree­ment that al­lows the United States to act­ively pur­sue ter­ror­ists around the world, ex­pires at the end of 2014. There’s also a re­newed Pentagon fo­cus on “the home­land” as ter­ror ex­perts say an­oth­er at­tack on the U.S. is one of their top wor­ries. “The home­land is no longer a sanc­tu­ary,” Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey said re­cently. “Some stra­tegic sem­inars we ran about a year ago [showed that] if we’re en­gaged in a con­flict vir­tu­ally any­where in the globe there is likely to be some ef­fect in the home­land, wheth­er it’s po­ten­tially bal­list­ic mis­siles or cy­ber.”

HAGEL

After a bruis­ing con­firm­a­tion pro­cess, Hagel took of­fice in late Feb­ru­ary and then pro­ceeded to keep a low pro­file as he learned the ins and outs of the job. The Vi­et­nam vet­er­an and former Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or dealt with se­quest­ra­tion bluntly, while mak­ing sure to apo­lo­gize to troops and ci­vil­ians af­fected by the cuts. He has since rat­cheted up his op­pos­i­tion to across-the-board cuts and un­cer­tainty — ex­pect that to con­tin­ue next year. (Rod Lamkey/Getty Im­ages)But on the whole, Hagel has been re­served but res­ol­ute with his lead­er­ship style. He let Kerry do most of the talk­ing dur­ing con­gres­sion­al hear­ings on Syr­ia but proved his mettle when he re­in­stated fur­lough days for hun­dreds of thou­sands of ci­vil­ian work­ers dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down this fall. After lay­ing low, the de­fense sec­ret­ary has be­gun to raise his pub­lic pro­file. 2014 will be the year that Hagel makes his mark, and two per­son­nel se­lec­tions will help shape his second year in of­fice. Hagel soon will pick the next deputy de­fense sec­ret­ary, a key po­s­i­tion that his­tor­ic­ally man­ages the de­fense in­dustry and the three mil­lion per­son De­fense De­part­ment work­force. Hagel already se­lec­ted his new press sec­ret­ary, the me­dia-savvy Rear Adm. John Kirby, who is not­able for sev­er­al reas­ons. Kirby was right-hand man to former Joint Chiefs Chair­man Adm. Mike Mul­len, is well known to Wash­ing­ton’s me­dia elites, a vet­er­an of the glob­al mil­it­ary dip­lo­mat­ic scene, and has long ties to the White House. In him, Hagel se­lec­ted an of­ficer, not a Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ive, to speak for the Pentagon.

CY­BER

Gen. Keith Al­ex­an­der, the out­go­ing head of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency and U.S. Cy­ber Com­mand, warned this year that cy­ber threats are an in­creas­ing threat to the United States. “When you look at the stra­tegic land­scape from our per­spect­ive, it’s get­ting worse,” Al­ex­an­der said dur­ing con­gres­sion­al testi­mony in March. New tech­no­lo­gies ““ and new threats ““ emerge al­most daily. While the Pentagon faces more budget threats in the New Year, they have pledged to pro­tect cy­ber pro­grams. There’s also grow­ing con­cern that a cy­ber threat could lead to real con­flict. And 2014 will see the con­tro­ver­sial Al­ex­an­der, who was on the hot seat much of the year over the Ed­ward Snowden leaks, exit his dual post early next year. One lead­ing can­did­ate to re­place Al­ex­an­der is Vice Ad­mir­al Mi­chael Ro­gers, cur­rently com­mand­er of the U.S. Navy’s 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cy­ber Com­mand, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters. But it’s clear that the battle between cy­ber secrecy and pub­lic pres­sure for trans­par­ency will heat up. Ex­pect cy­ber­se­cur­ity to head from the shad­ows to the Su­preme Court, as 2013 closed with a fed­er­al judge warn­ing that the NSA’s core mis­sion could be a Con­sti­tu­tion­al vi­ol­a­tion.

CON­GRESS

There are ma­jor changes on the ho­ri­zon for both the House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tees. SASC Chair­man Sen. Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., is re­tir­ing, leav­ing the top spot of the power­ful com­mit­tee open. One fron­trun­ner to re­place him is Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a Vi­et­nam vet­er­an with close ties to Hagel. In the House, Chair­man Rep. Buck McK­eon, R.-Cal­if., is weigh­ing re­tire­ment and has anoin­ted Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, R-Texas, to re­place him. Ex­pect sev­er­al young­er mem­bers of Con­gress eye­ing the wave of seni­or re­tire­ments (and the 2016 pres­id­en­tial race) to try and make their marks as na­tion­al se­cur­ity heavy­weights, in­clud­ing Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Marco Ru­bio, who has giv­en key for­eign policy speeches, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a vice pres­id­en­tial fa­vor­ite in 2012. Bey­ond that, there’s also sev­er­al key pieces of le­gis­la­tion that need to be ad­dressed, in­clud­ing New York Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand’s failed at­tempt to re­move the chain of com­mand in mil­it­ary sexu­al as­sault cases. Her amend­ment wasn’t in­cluded in the fi­nal Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, but she’s ex­pec­ted to re­new her ef­fort in the next term. And next year’s budget hear­ings are sure to be con­ten­tious as Con­gress con­tin­ues to push back on the Pentagon’s key budget sav­ing pro­pos­als like base clos­ings and med­ic­al and re­tire­ment be­ne­fit re­forms. Con­gress will also take up oth­er press­ing is­sues like cy­ber se­cur­ity and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.

More from De­fense One, our sis­ter site:

Why the Cent­ral Afric­an Re­pub­lic Crisis Is a Se­cur­ity Prob­lem for the U.S.

Pre­dic­tions for Afgh­anistan in 2014

Fi­nally Fut­enma: The Air Base Deal’s Place in The Pivot

AFGHANISTAN

There war in Afgh­anistan will change rap­idly and dra­mat­ic­ally in 2014. Pres­id­ent Barack Obama has prom­ised to with­draw U.S. troops by the end of next year, of­fi­cially end­ing the war. The U.S. wants a bi­lat­er­al se­cur­ity agree­ment inked by the New Year’s Eve, but the ne­go­ti­ations likely will spill in­to next year. By Feb­ru­ary, the num­ber of U.S. troops there is set to drop to 34,000, down from just un­der 50,000. A new Afghan pres­id­ent will be elec­ted in April. And at Septem­ber’s sum­mit, NATO heads of state will agree on a fi­nal post-war plan for Afgh­anistan. But Afghan Pres­id­ent Ham­id Kar­zai has placed new de­mands on the U.S. over con­duct­ing raids on Afghan homes and ne­go­ti­at­ing a peace deal with the Taliban, and he said he wants to wait un­til April’s elec­tion to al­low the next Afghan pres­id­ent to ap­prove the deal. De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said there may be more time, point­ing to Feb­ru­ary’s NATO de­fense min­is­ters meet­ing as a cru­cial dead­line to put plans in place for next year’s draw­down. There’s also the fate of stalled peace talks with the Taliban. How many U.S. troops Obama de­cides to leave in Afgh­anistan, per­haps about 10,000, per­haps to zero as he did in Ir­aq, re­mains to be seen.

SYRIA

Head­ing in­to 2014, crit­ic­al lib­er­al and con­ser­vat­ive U.S. for­eign policy lead­ers say Obama’s Syr­ia policy ““ and the war it­self ““ is in “dis­ar­ray.” The U.S. threatened mil­it­ary ac­tion against Syr­ia this sum­mer after the As­sad re­gime was found to have used chem­ic­al weapons against its people. Obama drew a red line and sent Navy ships to the re­gion. But with the mil­it­ary ready to fire on As­sad, Obama sur­prised many by tak­ing his case to Con­gress, first. Con­gress ““ and the Amer­ic­an people ““ said no to an­oth­er Amer­ic­an mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in the Middle East. In­stead, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry struck a deal al­low­ing Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad to des­troy his most leth­al chem­ic­al weapons, like mus­tard gas and sar­in, by Dec. 31. That dead­line has already been pushed in­to next year. “It will be quite dif­fi­cult to meet this timeline,” Ah­met Uzum­cu, dir­ect­or-gen­er­al of the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons, said. The rest of the stock­pile is sup­posed to be re­moved by Feb. 5. The New Year will also open with peace talks sched­uled for Jan. 22 in Geneva, but ma­jor op­pos­i­tion groups may boy­cott the meet­ing. The civil war in Syr­ia will enter its third year on March 15. There’s hope that 2014 could be the year that a res­ol­u­tion is reached ““ but that seems in­creas­ingly un­likely as a large num­ber of for­eign and Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ist fight­ers have con­flated the con­flict, threatened re­gion­al sta­bil­ity, and left As­sad de­term­ined to stay in power. A rebel fight­er burns a Syr­i­an flag found in a build­ing that be­longed to Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces, Novem­ber 21, 2013. (Mah­mud al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Im­ages)

BUDGET

The Sen­ate is on the verge of passing a budget deal that will give the Pentagon a little cer­tainty go­ing in­to the New Year. The deal will put off se­quester cuts for two years. Even with the last-minute deal, Pentagon lead­ers will ring in the New Year and im­me­di­ately get right back to the budget battle. The fisc­al year 2015 budget will be re­vealed; plan­ners have been build­ing sev­er­al budgets based on sev­er­al scen­ari­os. And the Pentagon’s eagerly awaited Quad­ren­ni­al De­fense Re­view, which sets the mil­it­ary’s strategy for the fu­ture, is also due next year. The cli­mate in Wash­ing­ton isn’t ex­pec­ted to im­prove any time soon ““ and midterm elec­tions are sure to shake things up — so 2014 will con­tin­ue to be a struggle for the Pentagon’s top lead­ers as they con­tin­ue to move from the “blank check” era of the past dec­ade to its new post-war pos­ture.

ASIA-PACIFIC

The Pentagon’s slow and gradu­al pivot to the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion will con­tin­ue in 2014, when Hagel is ex­pec­ted to vis­it Beijing ““ even as threats and chal­lenges evolve in the Middle East and North Africa, and the war in Afgh­anistan heats up be­fore it comes to an end. Des­pite those hot­spots, Pentagon and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in­sist that the pivot, a dir­ect­ive from Obama’s first term, is real and re­mains a top pri­or­ity. But while num­bers of ships and troops is not dra­mat­ic­ally shift­ing, stra­tegic re­la­tion­ships in the re­gion are. The U.S. con­tin­ues to win sup­port for its pivot with South­east Asi­an mil­it­ary lead­ers, who have wel­comed the ad­ded Amer­ic­an se­cur­ity lay­er and are sign­ing deals for in­creased mil­it­ary ac­cess without costly bases. At the same time, ten­sions on some his­tor­ic fault lines are in­creas­ing, not de­creas­ing, des­pite Amer­ic­an pleas for calm. China’s self-pro­claimed air de­fense zone has angered Ja­pan, while South Korea vows to strike back the next pro­voca­tion from North Korea, which has grown even less pre­dict­able. Still, oth­er emer­ging threats such as ter­ror­ism, cy­ber, space and home­land se­cur­ity will con­tin­ue to com­pete for at­ten­tion with what Pentagon lead­ers in­creas­ingly ad­mit is the primary reas­on for Amer­ica’s east­ward fo­cus: eco­nom­ic power.

TERRORISM

The glob­al war on ter­ror that began after the 9/11 at­tacks will con­tin­ue in­to 2014. The rise of ex­trem­ism and the mi­gra­tion of ter­ror groups Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Is­lam­ic Maghreb from Kenya to Syr­ia are keep­ing the Pentagon busy. And next year is a pivotal year as the Au­thor­iz­a­tion to Use Mil­it­ary Force, the agree­ment that al­lows the United States to act­ively pur­sue ter­ror­ists around the world, ex­pires at the end of 2014. There’s also a re­newed Pentagon fo­cus on “the home­land” as ter­ror ex­perts say an­oth­er at­tack on the U.S. is one of their top wor­ries. “The home­land is no longer a sanc­tu­ary,” Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey said re­cently. “Some stra­tegic sem­inars we ran about a year ago [showed that] if we’re en­gaged in a con­flict vir­tu­ally any­where in the globe there is likely to be some ef­fect in the home­land, wheth­er it’s po­ten­tially bal­list­ic mis­siles or cy­ber.”

HAGEL

After a bruis­ing con­firm­a­tion pro­cess, Hagel took of­fice in late Feb­ru­ary and then pro­ceeded to keep a low pro­file as he learned the ins and outs of the job. The Vi­et­nam vet­er­an and former Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or dealt with se­quest­ra­tion bluntly, while mak­ing sure to apo­lo­gize to troops and ci­vil­ians af­fected by the cuts. He has since rat­cheted up his op­pos­i­tion to across-the-board cuts and un­cer­tainty — ex­pect that to con­tin­ue next year. (Rod Lamkey/Getty Im­ages)But on the whole, Hagel has been re­served but res­ol­ute with his lead­er­ship style. He let Kerry do most of the talk­ing dur­ing con­gres­sion­al hear­ings on Syr­ia but proved his mettle when he re­in­stated fur­lough days for hun­dreds of thou­sands of ci­vil­ian work­ers dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down this fall. After lay­ing low, the de­fense sec­ret­ary has be­gun to raise his pub­lic pro­file. 2014 will be the year that Hagel makes his mark, and two per­son­nel se­lec­tions will help shape his second year in of­fice. Hagel soon will pick the next deputy de­fense sec­ret­ary, a key po­s­i­tion that his­tor­ic­ally man­ages the de­fense in­dustry and the three mil­lion per­son De­fense De­part­ment work­force. Hagel already se­lec­ted his new press sec­ret­ary, the me­dia-savvy Rear Adm. John Kirby, who is not­able for sev­er­al reas­ons. Kirby was right-hand man to former Joint Chiefs Chair­man Adm. Mike Mul­len, is well known to Wash­ing­ton’s me­dia elites, a vet­er­an of the glob­al mil­it­ary dip­lo­mat­ic scene, and has long ties to the White House. In him, Hagel se­lec­ted an of­ficer, not a Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ive, to speak for the Pentagon.

CYBER

Gen. Keith Al­ex­an­der, the out­go­ing head of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency and U.S. Cy­ber Com­mand, warned this year that cy­ber threats are an in­creas­ing threat to the United States. “When you look at the stra­tegic land­scape from our per­spect­ive, it’s get­ting worse,” Al­ex­an­der said dur­ing con­gres­sion­al testi­mony in March. New tech­no­lo­gies ““ and new threats ““ emerge al­most daily. While the Pentagon faces more budget threats in the New Year, they have pledged to pro­tect cy­ber pro­grams. There’s also grow­ing con­cern that a cy­ber threat could lead to real con­flict. And 2014 will see the con­tro­ver­sial Al­ex­an­der, who was on the hot seat much of the year over the Ed­ward Snowden leaks, exit his dual post early next year. One lead­ing can­did­ate to re­place Al­ex­an­der is Vice Ad­mir­al Mi­chael Ro­gers, cur­rently com­mand­er of the U.S. Navy’s 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cy­ber Com­mand, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters. But it’s clear that the battle between cy­ber secrecy and pub­lic pres­sure for trans­par­ency will heat up. Ex­pect cy­ber­se­cur­ity to head from the shad­ows to the Su­preme Court, as 2013 closed with a fed­er­al judge warn­ing that the NSA’s core mis­sion could be a Con­sti­tu­tion­al vi­ol­a­tion.

CONGRESS

There are ma­jor changes on the ho­ri­zon for both the House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tees. SASC Chair­man Sen. Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., is re­tir­ing, leav­ing the top spot of the power­ful com­mit­tee open. One fron­trun­ner to re­place him is Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a Vi­et­nam vet­er­an with close ties to Hagel. In the House, Chair­man Rep. Buck McK­eon, R.-Cal­if., is weigh­ing re­tire­ment and has anoin­ted Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, R-Texas, to re­place him. Ex­pect sev­er­al young­er mem­bers of Con­gress eye­ing the wave of seni­or re­tire­ments (and the 2016 pres­id­en­tial race) to try and make their marks as na­tion­al se­cur­ity heavy­weights, in­clud­ing Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Marco Ru­bio, who has giv­en key for­eign policy speeches, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a vice pres­id­en­tial fa­vor­ite in 2012. Bey­ond that, there’s also sev­er­al key pieces of le­gis­la­tion that need to be ad­dressed, in­clud­ing New York Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand’s failed at­tempt to re­move the chain of com­mand in mil­it­ary sexu­al as­sault cases. Her amend­ment wasn’t in­cluded in the fi­nal Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, but she’s ex­pec­ted to re­new her ef­fort in the next term. And next year’s budget hear­ings are sure to be con­ten­tious as Con­gress con­tin­ues to push back on the Pentagon’s key budget sav­ing pro­pos­als like base clos­ings and med­ic­al and re­tire­ment be­ne­fit re­forms. Con­gress will also take up oth­er press­ing is­sues like cy­ber se­cur­ity and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.

More from De­fense One, our sis­ter site:

Why the Cent­ral Afric­an Re­pub­lic Crisis Is a Se­cur­ity Prob­lem for the U.S.

Pre­dic­tions for Afgh­anistan in 2014

Fi­nally Fut­enma: The Air Base Deal’s Place in The Pivot

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) “is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and … the Justice Department” for potentially improper contributions to his 2013 campaign, including while he was a Clinton Global Initiative board member. ... Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from” former Chinese legislator Wang Wenliang. “U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to … elections. … But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status.”

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RAISES SEX ASSAULT, VINCE FOSTER
Trump Takes Aim at Bill Clinton
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump is reviving some of the ugliest political chapters of the 1990s with escalating personal attacks on Bill Clinton's character, part of a concerted effort to smother Hillary Clinton 's campaign message with the weight of decades of controversy. Trump's latest shot came Monday when he released an incendiary Instagram video that includes the voices of two women who accused the former president of sexual assault, underscoring the presumptive Republican nominee's willingness to go far beyond political norms in his critique of his likely Democratic rival. ...In one recent interview, Trump said another topic of potential concern is the suicide of former White House aide Vincent Foster, which remains the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories on the Internet."

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FUROR AFTER HOUSE OVERSIGHT HEARING
Head of Security for TSA Has Been Reassigned
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The head of security for the Transportation Security Administration, Kelly Hoggan, has been removed from his position after a hearing about the agency's management, the House Oversight Committee says." Deputy assistant administrator Darby LaJoye will take over for Hoggan on a temporary basis.

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