Troops’ death pay becomes political football – Furloughs begin at VA – Was the Libya raid legal?

Troops’ death pay becomes political football – Furloughs begin at VA – Was the Libya raid legal?

TROOPS’ DEATH BENEFITS  BECOME POLITICAL FOOTBALL: Yesterday, House appropriators were readying legislation that would give the Pentagon the additional legal authority it says it needs during the government shutdown to pay families of troops killed in combat. The Pentagon says 17 servicemembers have been  killed in Afghanistan since the shutdown began.

“We can never let the welfare of our troops and their families become pawns in a political contest,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said. “If the Pentagon believes they need more explicit authority to disburse these payments, I am sure the House will provide it in very short order.”

Senate Democrats decried this “piecemeal” approach, saying it was just one more example of Republicans trying to gain political advantage by alleviating the more noticeable pains of the shutdown. Just pass a “clean” spending bill and reopen the government, they said. Our story:

— AND IT COULD BE THE FINAL STRAW, says Army Times’ Rick Maze: “In the Senate, the lapse in death benefits was being used as a bipartisan call to end the government shutdown.”

“I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. All of us should be,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during a Tuesday afternoon debate on the Senate floor.

AT VA, FURLOUGHS BEGIN, via POLITICO’s Leigh Munsil: “More than 7,000 Veterans Benefits Administration employees and 2,754 VA Office of Information Technology employees were placed on furlough starting Tuesday.”

Similar to the death benfits issues, House Republicans are pushing a piecemeal approach where Congress would pass a veterans funding bill while the government remains shut down.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is scheduled to testify at 10:30 a.m. today before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee about how the shutdown affects his agency’s operations.

He’ll tell lawmakers that if a government shutdown continues, roughly 3.8 million veterans won’t receive disability compensation payments and 315,000 will see pension payments stopped, according to an AP report this morning.

“In some areas, like health care delivery, there are fewer adverse effects. In others, such as reducing the claims backlog, we have already seen a negative impact,” Shinseki will say. More from the AP:

HOUSE VETS CHAIRMAN: VA TV SPOTS LOOK EXCESSIVE DURING SHUTDOWN: One issue you can expect to come up at today’s hearing is the fact that the VA has continued to run TV ads during the shutdown. In a letter to Shinseki, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller called on the department to provide details on its ad buys.

“It has come to my attention that during the government shutdown, the Department of Veterans Affairs has continued to run a costly advertising campaign, including expensive television commercials during National Football League games and Major League Baseball playoffs,” the Florida Republican wrote Shinseki yesterday. “According to information received from our initial investigation, it appears that VA spent more than $1 million on television advertisements from September 9 through October 13, 2013, in the Washington, D.C., metro area alone.”

Miller and other members of the committee have repeatedly slammed Shinseki and his department for not being adequately transparent and communicative with lawmakers. So, this hearing could be a hot one. Look for our live coverage later today.

— SNEAK PEEK – IAVA AIMS TO SHOW VETS’ SHUTDOWN PAIN: Alex Nicholson, legislative director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, will testify at today’s hearing and aim to show how the shutdown is hurting the newest generation of veterans.

“Veterans are hurting. They need Washington to end the shutdown so they can receive and benefit from the services and support they have earned. But until the government re-opens, our veterans deserve clear, reliable, and accurate information,” Nicholson is expected to say, according to prepared testimony obtained by Morning D.

OBAMA: ‘WE DON’T GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE’: President Barack Obama says he’s been tempted to sign some of these House bills that fund critical programs, but that in the end, it’s no way to run a government.

“What you’ve seen are bills that come up where wherever Republicans are feeling political pressure, they put a bill forward. And if there’s no political heat, if there’s no television story on it, then nothing happens,” Obama told reporters during a press conference yesterday at the White House.

** MISSION: Customer Success

For more than 90 years, Raytheon has helped enable countless missions by remaining committed to a single one: customer success. We deliver innovative solutions across Sensing, Effects, C3I, Mission Support and Cyber; solutions that deliver performance, efficiency and value across every domain: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. **

WAS THE LIBYA RAID LEGAL? UM, NEXT QUESTION, via POLITICO’s Reid J. Epstein: During the press conference, “Obama wouldn’t say whether the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi was legal, only that al-Libi, who the U.S. says is responsible for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, killed “a whole lot of Americans.”

TRIPOLI IS NO BENGHAZI, via USA TODAY’s Oren Dorell: “The capture by U.S. special forces of an al-Qaeda leader in the Libyan capital of Tripoli has some wondering why none of the Benghazi terrorists have been grabbed.”

It could be because Tripoli is “a relatively safe city where the government is more friendly toward the United States,” and Benghazi is “teeming with radical militias.”

SOMALIA RAID STYMIED BY ‘INTEL FLAWS,’ via The New York Times’ Nicholas Kulish and Eric Schmitt: “As a group of about 20 commandos entered the Shabab compound in Baraawe, Somalia, they encountered many more civilians than they anticipated, including women and children, American officials briefed on the operation said.”

IT’S WEDNESDAY AND THE SHUTDOWN CONTINUES: Thanks for starting your day with Morning Defense. Whether you’re furloughed or back to work, you’re all essential to us. Send your latest defense news, tips, feedback our way at and Don’t forget to follow on Twitter at @k8brannen, @jmsummers @morningdefense and @POLITICOPro for the latest.

#PROCHAT TODAY AT 1:30 P.M. — Join David Nather, author of POLITICO’s “Understanding Obamacare” guide, and the POLITICO Pro health care team today at 1:30 p.m. on Twitter with hashtag #ProChat to talk all things ACA and ask your questions about Obamacare. Learn more:

FEEL BETTER, SENATOR: We’re thinking about Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who underwent emergency heart surgery last week. We’re wishing the senator a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the Hill soon.

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE EGYPT? The White House still isn’t sure, says Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez. He told POLITICO yesterday that he hasn’t heard anything yet from the Obama administration on whether it plans to withhold aid to Egypt in response to this summer’s military overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi.

“I have not had indications from the administration exactly what they’ve thought about doing or what their conclusions are, if they’ve come to conclusions,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS AID TO EGYPT WILL CONTINUE, despite reports late last night to the contrary.

“The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

CNN reported, according to an unnamed U.S. official, that the U.S. would cut off all military aid to Egypt in response to an ‘accumulation of events’ there. And Reuters added more details, reporting that the administration planned to withhold most military aid to Egypt while still funding counterterrorism efforts.

“We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days,” but as President Barack Obama made clear in his speech last month to the United Nations General Assembly, “that assistance relationship will continue,” Hayden said.

NUN ALERT: Y-12 PLANT SHUTTING DOWN, via Oak Ridge Today’s John Huotari: “The shutdown activities are supposed to put the nuclear weapons plant into a safe and secure status.”

In July 2012, an 82-year old nun and two other anti-nuclear protesters managed to break into the Y-12 National Security Complex.

THANKS FOR STAYING ON THE LINE. PLEASE CONTINUE TO HOLD: Sen. Kelly Ayotte is still blocking the nomination of SAIC executive Deborah Lee James to be the next secretary of the Air Force. Why? The answers she received from the Air Force on the possible retirement of its fleet of A-10 Warthogs were “insufficient.” The Air Force says it has to keep all options on the table as long as sequestration looms.

Will her nomination eventually go through? Our guess: yes.

WHAT’S ON OUR SHUTDOWN PLAYLIST? We’ve been writing a lot about “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” so that’s our anthem for the day, from Warren Zevon:


— Sens. Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Saxby Chambliss and others call for the Obama administration to move the Libyan terror suspect to Guantanamo Bay. Army Times:

— The organization overseeing the destruction of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile is sending a second team of experts into the country. The New York Times:

— Iran readies offer to limit its nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal:

— Five things to take away from the raids in Libya and Somalia this weekend. Defense One:

**Raytheon is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 91 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems; as well as a broad range of mission support services. With the hard work and dedication of tens of thousands of employees around the world, Raytheon is well-equipped to meet the needs of its customers in more than 80 countries — today, tomorrow and well into the 21st century. Customer success is our mission. **


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