The D Brief: House hands $554b to DoD; Senate weighs in on “boots on the ground”; Brennan rebuts; Yoda’s office survives another day; A mod for the Navy’s LCS; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

The sausage making is never pertty: Amid shouting and arm-twisting, the House narrowly passed a $1 trillion government-wide spending bill that keeps the government running and includes more for the Pentagon. Defense News’ John Bennett:  “…For the Defense Department, the legislation would provide $554.1 billion for fiscal 2015, just smaller than the $554.3 billion the Obama administration requested. But the bill’s $490.1 billion base 2015 Pentagon appropriations bill, if enacted this week, would be $3.3 billion larger than the amount allocated for fiscal 2014.”

“The measure would give the White House most of the funds it requested, including $3.4 billion of the $5.6 billion it recently asked to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It proposes $64 billion for the Pentagon’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account; with the war in Afghanistan winding down, that level would be about $21 billion less than the 2014 enacted level.” More here.

Why is it called a “cromnibus bill, not an omnibus?” Again, Bennett: “The term “cromnibus” refers to the measure’s appearance as an omnibus appropriations bill because of its 11 full-year spending measures. The first two letters refer to a continuing resolution (CR) for Homeland Security, a Republican response to the president’s action on immigration.”

Now it’s up to the Senate. AP: “It's now up to the Senate to pass a huge $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government running, but not before a battle between old school veterans and new breed freshmen such as tea partier Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren, a liberal with a national following. The smart money's on old school types such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. More here.

Meantime, a vote on military force. The WaPo’s Karen De Young: “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to ­authorize U.S. military action against the Islamic State “and associated forces” for three years, while prohibiting the introduction of ground combat troops.

“…The authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) is unlikely to make it to the Senate floor before the current Congress adjourns. But the debate surrounding it provided a preview of where parties are likely to stand when the Senate reconvenes under Republican leadership next month.” More here.

The NYT on the same vote: “…Though the political implications of the debate went unspoken, they were hard to ignore. Mr. Paul is also considering seeking the Republican nomination for president, yet he wants to lead the party in far different directions on foreign policy than Mr. Rubio. As the two gently but vigorously disagreed Thursday, each seemed keenly aware of how their words would be seen through the prism of a presidential campaign.” More here.

In Defense One: The Pentagon doesn’t need an increased budget to fight ISIS, regardless of what you may have heard, argues retired three-star Robert G. Gard, Jr., chairman of the board of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, in Defense One: “Simply throwing money at complex problems is never good policy… At roughly half a trillion dollars, the Pentagon’s base budget will remain at historically high levels, matching the peak in the Cold War in constant dollars. And within that historically high amount, there are signs of rampant waste…in both Iraq and Afghanistan…on projects with no practical purpose, or simply lost through fiscal mismanagement.”

Read about the Navy’s plans for modifications to the LCS ship, below.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief, Defense One's new, first-read national security newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to The D Brief, reply to this email and let us know, subscribe here or send us a holler at Please send us your tips, your tidbits, your scoops and stories, your think tank reports and best of all your candy, but send it to us early for maximum tease. And whatever you do, we hope you'll follow us @glubold and @natsecwatson.

Michel du Cille, the WaPo photographer who was part of the team that won the Pulitzer for exposing the treatment of veterans at Walter Reed, has died. Du Cille, who won two other Pulitzers “for his dramatic images of human struggle and triumph,” including people with Ebola, died while on assignment in Liberia. He apparently suffered a heart attack.

The WaPo: “Mr. du Cille was born in Jamaica in 1956. He credited his initial interest in photography to his father, who worked as a newspaper reporter in Jamaica and the United States.” The story about his life and his images, here.

CIA Director Brennan says the agency’s torture techniques are securely “in the past,” and the amount of transparency in recent days has been “over the top,” Defense One’s Stephanie Gaskell reports from yesterday’s extremely rare press conference at Langley.

No better time than now: The IC “has grown too large, too expensive, too powerful, too ineffective, and too unaccountable to the American people,” argues Mike German, a former FBI special agent specializing in domestic terrorism and covert operations. German, in conjunction with the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law and Defense One, just launched a series of commentaries and interviews getting at how to improve the business of American intelligence. The first two went live yesterday, with this one featuring Fredrick A.O.“Fritz” Schwarz arguing for a new Church Committee today; and another from the ACLU’s deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer, who offers a way forward from the present, headline-dominating scandal, including a release of the so-called “Panetta Review” so that—as German writes—“torture never becomes official U.S. policy again.”

What’s next for Feinstein & Co. re: torture report’s findings? Thursday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Diane Feinstein told Defense One’s Molly O’Toole: "We are putting into final form a series of recommendations which will be signed off on by members who represent the report, and I'm of the view that I certainly would support hearings next year…That will be determined by a new chairman. If I were chairman, that's how I would proceed, and hopefully under oath."

Meantime, an aide for the Senate Intelligence Committee told O’Toole: "I won't have details on recommendations until they're released, but the senator does expect to put them forth soon. These will include recommendations addressing detention and interrogation specifically, as well as some of the more systematic issues raised by the report's findings."

ICYMI: The Afghan response to the torture report—from President Ghani in Kabul to young men from Kandahar—and the impact on the U.S. presence there was neatly rolled up by U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman, here.

Brennan’s prepared remarks from yesterday, here.

If the Senate report on torture obligates the U.S. to prosecute those who sanctioned its use, then Latin America’s efforts can help show the U.S. how. An analysis by George Mason University’s Jo-Marie Burt, here.

John Kelly tells it straight to the WaPo’s Dan Lamothe. Kelly, on this week’s torture report: “I would say that people who said to me, ‘Well, we have now lost the moral high ground,’ I think that’s foolishness,” Kelly said on Wednesday night. “Some might say that. The jihadists were saying it today. Gimme a break. [Islamic State] is telling us we lost the moral high ground? I love it.”

Kelly on the care detainees get as compared to the care U.S. veterans get: “Human rights groups on the one hand will criticize the U.S. government for enteral feeding,” he said. “But in private, they’ll tell me ‘Thank goodness you’re doing this. These people might hurt themselves.’ I am charged by the president, we are charged by the president – the U.S. government – to maintain their health to the degree that we can. They have, frankly, better healthcare down there than probably the veterans in our country have, and they certainly have as good of health care down there as anyone in the U.S. military does.”

Read the whole of Lamothe’s invu, here.

The Air Force says billionaire Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is on the verge of getting a green light for launching Pentagon satellites into space. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio with more, here.

Al-Qaeda militants allegedly planning to assault a naval base in Karachi were rounded up by Pakistan security forces. Saeed Shah and Syed Shoaib Hasan report for the WSJ: “The alleged planned assault would have marked the second attempt by al Qaeda this year to stage a headline-grabbing raid on a naval installation. Its first major operation was a failed attempt in early September to hijack the PNS Zulfiqar, a Pakistan Navy frigate, to target U.S. naval warships on patrol in the northwestern Indian Ocean.” More here.

Cash-strapped Iraq looks for an out with Kuwait. Reuters just this morning: “Iraq is seeking to postpone a final $4.6 billion installment of reparations for its 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait, Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters, as it faces a cash crisis caused by falling oil prices and war with Islamic State. More here.

Random Tweet early this morning from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, which was surely hacked by the Florida Department of Tourism, which would be pretty random, too, right?: ‪@USEmbassyQ8

Cut loose in the #FloridaKeys, Florida’s fun-loving island paradise famous for its #tropical environment and attitude.”

Two bombs in quick succession killed at least 30 people at a market in the central Nigerian city of Jos. BBC with more—including a 13-year-old girl police say they captured wearing a suicide belt in the northern city of Kano—here.

French forces in northern Mali killed a senior commander of the al Mourabitoun Islamist group wanted by the U.S. NBC: “…The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Ahmed al Tilemsi, who took part in the 2011 kidnapping of two French nationals in Niger and of three aid workers in Algeria later that year.” More here.

Congress Saves Yoda’s Office of Net Assessment. From Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber: “Lawmakers protected the Pentagon’s internal think tank run by 93-year-old Andrew Marshall, (oftentimes referred to as the Pentagon’s Yoda) for more than 40 years – in both the 2015 defense authorization and appropriations bills, overturning a decision by Hagel to move the office under the Pentagon’s policy shop.

“Since Net Assessment’s creation in 1973, it has reported directly to the defense secretary. In March, it was revealed that Net Assessment oversaw a team that studied Russian President Vladimir Putin’s body language…The legislation also aims to keep the current chain of command in tact: “The head of the office … shall report directly to the Secretary of Defense without intervening authority and may communicate views on matters within the responsibility of the office directly to the Secretary without obtaining the approval or concurrence of any other official within the Department of Defense.”

“The defense spending bill adds $20 million to the Pentagon’s $8.9 million request for the Net Assessment office budget in 2015. The Pentagon’s Andy Marshall to retire, here. How ONA studied Putin’s body language, here.

Victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting could soon be eligible for the Purple Heart and medical benefits given to military personnel injured in combat, writes WSJ columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz. The measure—included as an amendment to the FY15 NDAA—passed the House last week and now moves on to the Senate. More here.  

If you want to better understand the idea of a buffer zone in Syria, from Turkey’s perspective, you could do far worse than read this bit in War on the Rocks. Aaron Stein of the Royal United Services Institute with a history, here.

The Navy announced a plan last evening to beef up the firepower and defenses of its Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to make it a little more rough-and-tumble. From Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber to The D Brief last night after the Pentagon briefing: “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday signed off on the Navy’s plan to buy a total of 52 ships, 20 more than currently planned. In February, Hagel told the Navy to come up with a ship more survivable than the current LCS, a type of ship that has faced criticism for not packing enough weapons and self-defense systems. The Navy determined a modified version of the LCS is the answer. “This ship will meet that need,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said at a briefing Thursday evening at the Pentagon with Sean Stackley, the Navy acquisition executive.

“The Navy is already buying two types of Littoral Combat Ships, the Lockheed Martin-built Freedom Class and the Austal USA-made Independence Class. The upgraded ships in concert with onboard MH-60 helicopters will have an “extremely lethal surface warfare configuration,” Stackley said.

What type of new equipment? The upgraded LCS, which will be called the small surface combatant, will get a host of new equipment allowing it to fight other ships and submarines. The new gadgets include an improved 3D air surveillance radar, upgraded self defenses, over-the-horizon missiles, improved electronic warfare, torpedo defense and countermeasures, more armor and bigger guns.

Who will make this stuff? The Navy hasn’t settled on contractors for the new equipment and plans to hold competitions for individual systems. Lockheed and Austal will install the equipment on their respective ships. Per Hagel’s memo, the Navy must develop an acquisition strategy in the coming months for these new ships as well as retrofitting the existing LCS fleet.

What will it cost? The Navy expects the new upgrades to cost between $60 million and $75 million per ship. Each ship costs about $360 million, but that price does not include millions of dollars more in government equipment installed on the vessels, according to Navy officials.

What didn’t the plan do? The Navy’s plan did not decide on a single LCS ship. The Navy still plans to compete the program buying both Freedom and Independence ships.