Home Politics Overnight Defense: Watchdog report hits ‘failed leadership’ at VA center in DC | Corker grills Pentagon officials over audit | Navy, Marines warn China is ‘weaponizing capital’

Overnight Defense: Watchdog report hits ‘failed leadership’ at VA center in DC | Corker grills Pentagon officials over audit | Navy, Marines warn China is ‘weaponizing capital’

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Overnight Defense: Watchdog report hits 'failed leadership' at VA center in DC | Corker grills Pentagon officials over audit | Navy, Marines warn China is 'weaponizing capital'

THE TOPLINE: Systematic problems at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center put patients at risk for years, including through unsterile conditions, a lack of medical supplies and unsecured patient documents, according to a scathing inspector general report released Wednesday.

There was no evidence anyone died because of the issues, the inspector general added, crediting “committed healthcare professionals.”

“Failed leadership at multiple levels within VA put patients and assets at the D.C. VA Medical Center at unnecessary risk and resulted in a breakdown of core services,” Inspector General Michael Missal said in a written statement upon release of the report. “It created a climate of complacency that allowed these conditions to exist for years. That there was no finding of patient harm was largely due to the efforts of many dedicated healthcare providers that overcame service deficiencies to ensure patients received needed care.”

Wednesday’s report is the latest controversy for the VA, where Secretary David Shulkin is fighting off allegations of misusing taxpayer dollars and an internal rebellion by some Trump appointees unhappy with his leadership.

In response to Wednesday’s report, Shulkin pledged systemwide changes, as well as changes at the D.C. center.

Read the rest here.

 

PENTAGON OFFICIALS GRILLED ON AUDIT: Pentagon comptroller David Norquist and Chief Management Officer John Gibson were grilled Wednesday by the Senate Budget Committee on the Pentagon’s first ever full audit and other fiscal issues.

Among the spicier exchanges was Sen. Bob Corker ‘s (R-Tenn.) questioning.

“We all watch us kill people remotely in Mosul and other places with people from far away commanding drones, and it’s just remarkable that we’re able to do things like that. DOD has the capacity to turn entire countries into craters, has all kind of cyber capabilities,” Corker said during a Senate Budget Committee hearing.

“How in the world is it in 2018 with all the massive capabilities that the Pentagon has that this is the first time the Pentagon is able to conduct an audit,” he said. “What is going on with the culture at the Pentagon?”

Read about the exchange here.

 

NAVY, MARINES WARN CHINA ‘WEAPONIZING CAPITAL’: The top officials from the Navy and the Marine Corps were also on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, defending their 2019 budget request.

In the process, they warned that China is using its checkbook as a weapon.

The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell has the story:

Top Navy and Marine Corps officials on Wednesday expressed concern over China’s expanding global reach and said the superpower was rapidly buying up foreign land to “win without fighting.”

“When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook,” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer told lawmakers during a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.

“Not only in the dollars and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological work, but what they’re doing around the globe … weaponizing capital.”

Spencer referred to Beijing’s current funding of a Sri Lankan port project, a move not done as aid but rather in order to secure it for themselves.

Read here.

 

USS COLE CASE DEFENSE LAWYERS QUIT OVER MICROPHONE: The lawyers defending the man allegedly behind the USS Cole bombing quit the case in October because they found a microphone in their special client meeting room at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the Miami Herald reported on Wednesday.

The three civilian defense attorneys were not allowed to talk about or investigate the microphone, found in their meeting room in August, according to a 15-page prosecution filing obtained by the Herald.

The USS Cole bombing in October 2000 — allegedly led by Abd al Rahim al Nashiri — killed 17 U.S. sailors off the coast of Yemen. The case was set to be the first death-penalty trial held at Guantanamo since the war crimes trial system changed following 9/11.

But attorney Rick Kammen, the lead defender of al Nashiri, as well as Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears, quit the case over what was described at the time as an ethical conflict involving attorney-client privilege.

Read here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

Gen. Darren McDew, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, and Mark Buzby, administrator of the Maritime Administration, will testify before a House Armed Services subpanel at 9 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. http://bit.ly/2FwKTuF

U.S. European Command commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. http://bit.ly/2FpbLts

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on preserving Arlington National Cemetery at 10:30 a.m. in Rayburn 2212. http://bit.ly/2toJT7j

 

ICYMI: 

— The Hill: Opinion: Early returns show North Korea sanctions hold promise

— The Hill: Opinion: Welcome to the nuclear blackmail of Putin’s ‘new world order’

— Associated Press: Marines let women join West Coast combat course

— Stars and Stripes: Numbers on US counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan don’t add up

— The Washington Post: Trump’s comments on Africa cast pall over Tillerson’s long-awaited trip

 

Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com, and Ellen Mitchell, emitchell@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill, @Rebecca_H_K, @EllenMitchell23

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