28 Apr 17. The U.S. Congress approved a continuing resolution that would extend government funding for another week to buy time to wrap negotiations on the overdue fiscal 2017 spending package. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the the weeklong stopgap spending bill, which expires May 5. Negotiations are ongoing for the 11 remaining fiscal 2017 spending bills. Democrats are seeking domestic spending increases in exchange for a White House-requested defense increase and to exclude what they term “poison pill” policy riders. The defense increase in play is reported to be $15bn, half of the $30bn Trump requested in March. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to confirm the amount and suggested the matter is not entirely settled. “That’s part of the discussions,” Schumer said. “Democrats are not averse to an increase in defense, but we want an increase in other things, too.”
The Senate approved the CR by unanimous consent an hour after the House had passed it in a largely bipartisan vote, 382-30. Democrats and Republicans roughly split the “no” votes.
“I am optimistic that a full-year appropriations package will be completed soon,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said following the House vote. “Congress must fulfill our constitutional duty and provide responsible funding for the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year.”
Democrats had threatened to oppose the continuing resolution without a deal in hand, but House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer signaled support even though “there are still significant items that are not resolved.” The Democrat from Maryland said he expected House Republicans to have a spending bill filed Monday night for passage on Thursday. Fiscal 2017 began at the end of September, but CRs have become the norm in Congress. Lawmakers would almost certainly have agreed to a full-year spending deal in the fall, but at Trump’s request, GOP leadership punted to give the new administration a chance to add its stamp. Along with Democrats, some Republicans — particularly pro-defense lawmakers — have groused the stopgap bill was needed. Because CRs generally bar new-start acquisition programs and continue funding at the previous year’s level, they can be disruptive to the military.
“The continuing resolution is never anyone’s first choice for funding the government. However, this is our best path forward,” Frelinghuysen said. (Source: Defense News)
28 Apr 17. Trump Gives Mattis Authority to Set Troop Levels in Iraq, Syria. In a major reversal of Obama administration policy, President Donald Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis broad authority to set troop levels in Iraq and Syria, according to the Pentagon.
The number of troops deployed, the so-called “Force Management Levels,” was the closely held prerogative of the White House under former President Obama. But in a statement Thursday night, the Pentagon said, “The president has delegated authority to the secretary of defense to determine force management levels (FML) for Iraq and Syria.”
The change, first reported by BuzzFeed’s Nancy Youssef, should not be interpreted to mean that Mattis is abandoning Obama’s overall strategy to avoid boots-on-the-ground combat and focus on training, advising and equipping local partners, the statement continued.
“Our strategy remains to work by, with and through local forces,” it said.
In addition, Mattis has made no decision to boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. “No change to current authorized force levels has been made,” according to the statement.
Currently, about 500 mostly Special Forces troops are permitted in Syria and a little more than 5,000 in Iraq under the existing Force Management Levels. However, the actual number of troops on the ground has consistently exceeded those limits by the addition of troops deployed on a “temporary” basis.
Last month, several hundred Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit