Defense authorization deal expected this week

by Tommy Grant

House and Senate negotiators hope to finalize a deal on the annual defense authorization bill this week, wrapping up a major piece of military legislation before the end of the year.

Conference committee members began their inter-chamber work on the massive military budget policy bill on Wednesday. By late last week, leaders from the House and Senate Armed Services Committee said only a few disagreements remained, and were expected to be worked out early this week.

Those conflicts largely revolve around fights over abortion access policies, diversity training in the military and other social issues inserted into the House draft of the authorization bill. Senate Democrats have been opposed to those changes.

But both Republicans and Democrats are focused on finding a way to finish the work. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., vowed ahead of last week’s conference work that “we will enact an authorization bill this year.” Despite partisan fights on Capitol Hill, the measure has advanced out of Congress for more than 60 consecutive years.

Monday, Dec. 4

House Veterans’ Affairs — 3 p.m. — 360 Cannon
Online VA services
Veterans Affairs officials will testify on improvements and challenges with their online services.

Tuesday, Dec. 5

House Veterans’ Affairs — 10 a.m. — 360 Cannon
Pending legislation
The committee will consider several pending bills.

House Foreign Affairs — 10 a.m. — Visitors Center H210
Belarus
Cabinet officials from Belarus will testify on the future of democracy in that country.

House Financial Services — 10 a.m. — 2128 Rayburn
Financial services technology
Officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Reserve will testify on potential technology advances.

House Judiciary — 10 a.m. — 2141 Rayburn

Department of Justice oversight
Justice Department officials will testify on the agency’s Civil Rights Division.

Senate Judiciary — 10 a.m. — 216 Hart
FBI
FBI Director Christopher Wray will testify on current operations.

House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — Visitors Center H210
Africa
State Department officials will testify on instability in the Sahel region in Africa.

Wednesday, Dec. 6

House Veterans’ Affairs — 10 a.m. — 360 Cannon
VA background checks
Veterans Affairs officials will testify on rules regarding employee background checks.

Senate Foreign Relations — 10 a.m. — 419 Dirksen
Authoritarian regimes
Outside experts will testify on threats posed by foreign authoritarian regimes.

House Armed Services — 2 p.m. — 2118 Rayburn
DOD technology
Pentagon officials will testify on future plans for technology improvements.

House Oversight — 2 p.m. — 2154 Rayburn
Artificial Intelligence
Outside experts will testify on the White House’s new policies regarding artificial intelligence.

Senate Armed Services — 3 p.m. — 222 Russell
DOD recruiting efforts
Service officials will testify on success and challenges in their recent recruiting efforts.

Thursday, Dec. 7

House Armed Services — 9 a.m. — 2212 Rayburn
Missile defense
Defense Department officials will testify on regional missile defense assets.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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