By Jeremy Herb | 05/16/2016 08:30 AM EDT

With Louis Nelson

HAPPENING TODAY – SEA-AIR-SPACE KICKS OFF: The Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition gets underway today at the Gaylord National Convention Center in Maryland. The three-day event is the largest maritime exposition in the U.S. and has a lengthy roster of Pentagon leaders speaking, starting this morning with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall speak on Tuesday, and Navy Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley is slated for Wednesday. The full exposition schedule is here. Our reporters Ellen Mitchell and Austin Wright will be on the ground at National Harbor, with the latest developments at POLITICO Pro and on Twitter (@EllenMitchell23 and @abwrig).

MEANWHILE … ON CAPITOL HILL – NDAA HEADS TO THE HOUSE FLOOR: Things slow down for the defense world in the Senate, but the House is keeping busy for another week. The National Defense Authorization Act goes to the House Rules Committee this evening, setting the bill up to be on the floor Tuesday through Thursday. There are now 372 amendments filed to the bill, and the Rules panel will decide which will get a floor vote.

The big looming question is how Democrats will vote on the measure. Last year enough Democrats voted against the bill over a boost to defense spending to sustain a veto – which mattered when President Barack Obama did, in fact, initially veto the measure. This year’s bill also increases base defense spending – albeit in a different fashion – but some any Democrats may be uneasy about opposing the bill in an election year.

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, says he’s still on the fence. Two other factors to watch for Democrats: the fate of amendments on the confederate flag at military academies and removing a provision targeting Obama’s Executive Order on LGBT workplace protections for federal contractors.

– HOUSE APPROPS DEFENSE MARKUP TUESDAY: The full House Appropriations Committee marks up its defense spending measure on Tuesday, after it cleared the subcommittee last week. Like the NDAA, the defense appropriations bill boosted base funding by funding the war budget only through April – not through the last five months of the new 2017 fiscal year. Democratic appropriators have slammed the approach, and could target it during the open markup.

If you want to read up on the bill, here’s an early version of the panel’s committee report. HAPPY MONDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING DEFENSE, where it’s the 30th anniversary of the release of the classic “Top Gun.” Want to relive Maverick’s glory? USA Today has 30 top quotes from the movie here. Keep the tips, pitches and feedback coming at [email protected], and follow on Twitter @jeremyherb, @morningdefense and @politicopro.

ALSO TODAY – MULLEN TALKS TPP: Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen makes the national security case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership at an event this evening hosted by the Atlantic Council. The Center for a New American Security holds a panel discussion on its new report, “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand U.S. Engagement in a Competitive World Order,” with Michele Flournoy among the panelists. And the Stimson Center hosts an event this morning for the release of its book, “The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVs: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age.”

NEW WEEK, SAME HEADLINE – ISLAMIC STATE CONTINUES IRAQ ATTACKS, via The Associated Press: “The Islamic State group launched a coordinated assault Sunday on a natural gas plant north of Baghdad that killed at least 14 people, while a string of other bomb attacks in or close to the capital killed 15 others, Iraqi officials said. The dawn attack on the gas plant began with a suicide car bombing at the facility’s main gate in the town of Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Several suicide bombers and militants then broke into the plant and clashed with security forces. The dead included six civilians and eight security forces; 27 troops were wounded.”

TOP DOC – 2001 AUMF CITED 37 TIMES TO JUSTIFY MILITARY ACTION IN 14 NATIONS: The Authorization for Use of Military Force adopted by Congress following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has been cited by the president in at least 37 instances to justify sending the armed forces to 14 nations and to undertake other actions, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Research Service.

The analysis, shared with POLITICO, cites 18 instances where the 2001 AUMF was cited by then-President George W. Bush to initiate or continue military operations, detentions or trials of terrorism suspects. And President Barack Obama has relied on the authorization 19 times, the analysis found. The number of operations justified went up by seven just since 2013, the last time CRS studied the issue. ** A message from BAE Systems: At BAE Systems, our experts have developed a low-cost gun-launched guided projectile, increasing range, accuracy and efficiency for our military services. Learn more at

** THE LONG VIEW – OBAMA IS THE LONGEST-SERVING WAR PRESIDENT, The New York Times writes on Obama’s unexpected legacy: “President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On May 6, with eight months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passed a somber, little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president. “If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term – a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria – he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.”

DON’T FORGET US – AL QAEDA TURNS TO SYRIA, reports the NYT: “Al Qaeda’s top leadership in Pakistan, badly weakened after a decade of C.I.A. drone strikes, has decided that the terror group’s future lies in Syria and has secretly dispatched more than a dozen of its most seasoned veterans there, according to senior American and European intelligence and counterterrorism officials. The movement of the senior Qaeda jihadists reflects Syria’s growing importance to the terrorist organization and most likely foreshadows an escalation of the group’s bloody rivalry with the Islamic State, Western officials say.”

FRIDAY NEWS DUMP – PENTAGON RELEASES CHINA REPORT: The Pentagon on Friday released its annual report on China’s military, saying that over the past year “China continued to assert sovereignty claims over features in the East and South China Seas” – a major point of contention with its neighbors and the U.S. “China demonstrated a willingness to tolerate higher levels of tension in the pursuit of its interests, especially in pursuit of its territorial claims in the East and South China Sea,” the report says. “However, China still seeks to avoid direct and explicit conflict with the United States.” –

REPORT ‘SEVERELY DAMAGED’ RELATIONS, CHINA RESPONDS, via Agence France-Presse: “China on Sunday accused the U.S. of deliberately distorting the facts in a report on the Asian giant’s defense policy, warning Washington it had ‘severely damaged’ trust between the superpowers. … Beijing hit back on Sunday in comments published in state media, with a defense ministry spokesman saying the Pentagon report had ‘deliberately distorted China’s defense policies.'”

PERSONNEL PROBLEMS – DISAGREEMENTS SLOW PLANS FOR TRANSGENDER SERVICE MEMBERS, reports The Washington Post: “Four months after a deadline set Carter set for a working group to finish evaluating the change, transgender service members are still waiting. Officials say disagreements remain in the Defense Department about how to move forward, suggesting that the Pentagon isn’t close to wrapping up the review, let alone instituting any changes.”

2016 WATCH – GATES SLAMS TRUMP ON FOREIGN POLICY: This isn’t the first time – nor the last, we predict – that the former defense secretary goes after the now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee. More here via POLITICO’s Isaac Arnsdorf: “Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy is inconsistent and overconfident. ‘He seems to think that he has all the answers and that he doesn’t need any advice from staff or anybody else,’ Gates said in an interview Sunday on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation.'”

MORNING D TRIVIA: Greg Walters was the first to correctly answer Friday’s trivia question that Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson died in 1863 of pneumonia a week after he was accidentally shot by his own troops. Check back Friday for our next question!

SPEED READ – The Obama administration is poised to sell light attack aircraft to Nigeria as part of an effort to support the country’s fight against Boko Haram: NYT – Internal Pentagon drama is strangling the defense secretary’s signature initiative to make the military’s promotion system function more like a Fortune 500 company: Military Times – The Army chief of staff worries emphasis on fighting global terrorism is hurting readiness for a conventional land war: NYT – ‘I Will Kill Him’: Afghan commander targets son, a Taliban fighter:

NYT – Thousands of demonstrators from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority march through Kabul to protest the route of a planned power transmission line: Reuters – Turkey’s military gains influence in the country again as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sidelines his political rivals: The Wall Street Journal – Al Qaeda affiliates threaten West Africa’s most peaceful cities: The Washington Post – Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ahead of broader talks on Syria slated for Tuesday: Reuters – The Islamic State shifts its tactics from war fighting to suicide bombing as it loses territory:

WSJ – Seeking Robert Levinson, the CIA consultant who vanished: NYT – Two Navy Crosses and more than 100 Silver Stars awarded secretly to Navy SEALs and a Marine for “extraordinary heroism” in the last 15 years reflect the fierce battles in Iraq and Afghanistan: USA Today – U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returns to a military courtroom Tuesday after a fight over classified data stalled his trial, where he faces desertion and other charges: Stars and Stripes – A federal appeals court rules the Obama administration doesn’t have to release the full version of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s so-called “torture report”:

POLITICO – POLITICO Pro Q&A: Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: POLITICO Pro – A Navy SEAL instructor has been temporarily removed from his training duties after the death of a sailor in a swimming pool:

The Washington Post – The U.S. Navy is ready to take ownership of its first Zumwalt-class destroyer: AP – Painted planes make a comeback in the Air Force: Military Times ** A message from BAE Systems: At BAE Systems, we work relentlessly to stay ahead of any challenge our customers may face. Our passion and dedication shows in everything we do-from advanced electronic systems to cyber operations and intelligence analysis, from combat vehicles and naval weapons, and from ship maintenance and modernization to vehicle upgrades and services. Knowing that our work makes a difference inspires us to push ourselves and the technologies we create to new levels.

That’s BAE Systems. That’s Inspired Work. Learn more about our technologies, systems and services at **


To view online: To change your alert settings, please go to or email was sent to ka[email protected] by: POLITICO, LLC 1000 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA, 22209, USA To unsubscribe,


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.