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Old 02-27-2020, 06:09 AM
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Exclamation Storm clouds brewing over Pentagon use of Guard, shipbuilding and F-35 funds to pay f

Storm clouds brewing over Pentagon use of Guard, shipbuilding and F-35 funds to pay for more border wall
By: Jamie Mcintyre - Washington Examiner - 02-27-20

FIGHTIN’ WORDS, ‘HEADING FOR A MAJOR BRAWL’: Defense Secretary Mark Esper listened politely as both Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee rebuked him yesterday for failing to consult with Congress before reprogramming $3.8 billion from Pentagon weapons and readiness programs to fund more border wall construction.

It began with a long lecture from Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington State, which was seconded by Rep. Mac Thornberry, the ranking Republican from Texas. But nobody was more pointed in his censure than California Democrat Rep. John Garamendi, who was irate that Esper said little to temper the fury beyond stating that “Congress does matter,” and that he looks to the Congress as a partner.

“Apparently we're not listening to what the chairman and the ranking member said about the authority of this committee with regard to appropriations,” said a grim-faced Garamendi, “You should listen very carefully. You are heading for a major brawl with this committee.”

A PUNCH TO THE GUT: It was one thing to take unused funds from last year’s budget that were available because the Army missed its recruiting goals, but quite another to sacrifice a Virginia-class attack submarine for a wall designed to thwart drug smugglers and illegal immigration, especially as the Navy is in a desperate hunt for money to expand its fleet to 355 ships.

“This is a punch in the gut to shipyard workers, the metal trades who are making life commitments to learn how to be welders and electricians and carpenters to see this radical rudder turn in this year’s budget in terms of shipbuilding,” fumed Democrat Rep. Joe Courtney, from Connecticut, home of General Dynamics Electric Boat, which was awarded a $22.2 billion contract in December to build nine new Virginia-class submarines.

“It is also a punch in the gut to the supply chain who, again, we have been coaxing back into ship building again after the lean years during the Iraq and Afghanistan war to make investments in terms of capital and hiring,” Courtney said. “But lastly, it is a punch in the gut to the combatant commanders. Again, just in the last few days we've had Gen. [Tod] Wolters of European Command talk about a 50% increase in the Russian submarine patrol operations.”

NEED MORE SUBS: Esper agreed the Navy is facing a critical shortage of attack submarines. “I am a big believer in attack submarines. I actually believe, my gut tells me we need more than what we plan for.”

But Esper made no apologies for taking the money for wall construction, citing “a topline budget which actually gives us 2% less buying power,” and insisting the money “is legally available to us because the DoD lawyers and the White House lawyers and the Department of Homeland Security lawyers have advised me that it is legally available.”

THAT COULD CHANGE: Several committee members suggested that it may be time for Congress to revoke Pentagon’s discretionary power to shift money from one account to another, in order to reassert the legislative branch’s power of the purse.

“You say you want to work with Congress and that you respect us,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, “but you don't, if at the end of the day the money that we have appropriated is going for something else.”

Michigan was hard hit by the decision to take $1.5 billion from the National Guard and Reserve budget, and Slotkin, a former Pentagon official, said the Trump administration has left Congress little choice. “This kills me, because I used to be at the Pentagon and I relied desperately on that reprogramming authority, but you've put us in a situation where to uphold our constitutional oath and the separation of powers, we have to exert our authority, and I'm sorry to say that.”


“The message it sends is that the Pentagon's got plenty of money … We received … somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 billion to $30 billion of, quote, "unfunded requirements." And at the same time, we found $3.8 billion just sitting in the corner that can go to a purpose that it was not intended. It undercuts any argument about the need for resources within the Department of Defense and it also undercuts the congressional process.” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.

“We made a different judgment call than the administration's budget request. And in effect, what the administration does is say, ‘we don't care what has been authorized and appropriated, we're going to do what we darn well want.’ … I support walls, but I am deeply concerned about where we're headed with the constitutional issue about Congress' role in national defense and whether that is being overridden.” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas

“Securing our border, obviously, is an issue of our national defense, but it is Congress' failure to act, not your actions that are resulting in dollars being taken from the Department of Defense budget … we should take an action to do both -- to backfill those funds and give the president the funds necessary to secure our border.” Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio

“This reprogramming $3.8 billion was not a significant, immediate, strategic, negative impact to the overall defense of the United States of America. Those were precisely selected words … It's a half of 1% of the overall budget,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

“I say it not as a former soldier but also a former Guardsman, I get it. I understand. But we had sources we had to fill and … we tried to be very objective in terms of where we took the sources. And the clearest source was ‘early to need’ to ‘excess to request.’” Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Good Thursday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Susan Katz Keating (@SKatzKeating). Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.

Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue!

HAPPENING TODAY: The Air Force Association’s 2020 Air Warfare Symposium, kicks into high gear today with remarks from Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; U.S. Northern Command chief Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy; Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Charles Brown; Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; Air Combat Commander Gen. James Holmes, and others. Agenda at

EXERCISE POSTPONED: As expected the U.S and South Korea have postponed a scheduled command post exercise over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, as cases of the coronavirus infection continue to multiply in South Korea, formally known as the Republic of Korea.

‘In light of the ROK government’s declaration of the highest alert level ‘severe’ on COVID-19, the ROK-US Alliance made the decision to postpone the combined command post training for the ROK-US Combined Forces Command until further notice,” said a statement issued by U.S. Forces Korea.

Yesterday saw another another 505 cases of infection reported in South Korea, where the National Assembly passed a law increasing fines violators of self-isolation and adding the possibility of a year in prison.

NO SECRET DEALS: Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney grilled both Esper and Milley yesterday about reports the pending deal with the Taliban that could be signed Saturday may include secret annexes or side deals. “Will you give assurances to this committee and make a commitment that any deal the United States enters into with the Taliban will be made public in its entirety?” she asked.

“Nothing comes to mind right now that you’re mentioning,” said Esper. “I know there's a base agreement and some annexes, I don't know if those have been agreed upon as secret or something,” adding, “I'll certainly raise that with the Secretary of State.”

“You're quoting things that I haven't seen,” said Milley. “As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I will take a rigorous look at whatever annexes are out there, and I have very strong feelings, opinions, and lots of experience in Afghanistan with the Taliban.”

“So I do give you my commitment that I'm going to give all of this a hard look. I am not aware of anything that you just described,” he said.

MAKING A STATEMENT: Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe reports from Kabul that Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, took a stroll through the city, sans body armor, to underscore that peace is at hand, after more than 18 years of war.

“Miller greeted shopkeepers, children and Afghan security forces, taking scores of selfies over the span of a couple of hours without wearing a helmet or body armor,” Lamothe reported. “He was accompanied by Afghanistan’s acting defense minister, Asadullah Khalid, who hugged fellow Afghans and posed for photographs.”

“When you see the minister of defense out walking, that actually matters,” Miller told Lamothe in a brief interview on a city street. “I think that’s really the key piece.”

CLIMATE CHANGE A CONCERN, NOT A THREAT: At yesterday’s House hearing, Secretary Esper pushed back against the idea that climate change posed a direct national security threat to the United States.

Esper testified that he believes climate change is real, but sees it more as something that will affect bases as a result of storms and rising sea levels.

“I don't believe it's a threat to our national security as I've traditionally defined it. I do believe it's a challenge for our military installations that are confronted with the impact of climate change,” Esper said at one point.

Gen. Milley testified he also believes climate change is real. “I think it is probably going to result in increased destabilization with resource repletion, water and things like that. You're going to see increases in diseases,” he said. “There's a lot of second and third order effects and does it impact on US national security? Yes it does.”

“I agree that climate change creates impacts on national security,” added Esper later in the hearing. “The specific question was: Do I define it as a national security threat? I don't in my traditional thinking about how I identify national security threats.”

SUPPORT FOR TRANSGENDER TROOPS: A new Pentagon-funded study finds that the majority of military personnel support allowing transgender Americans to serve in the U.S. military.

The study, “Support for Transgender Military Service from Active Duty United States Military Personnel,” found overall, 66% of participants supported transgender service, with 82% of LGB and 57% of heterosexual/cisgender respondents in favor of an inclusive policy.

“Findings indicate broad support for transgender military service across all four branches of the military and military ranks, with some statistically significant differences in support emerging by gender, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity,” the authors write. “Results suggest that the ban, in part, based on a belief that transgender service members degrade unit readiness, contradicts our findings of broad support for transgender service among active duty service members. Policies limiting transgender service in the U.S. military should be lifted given these data.”

Transgender rights groups immediately siezed on the study. “This research, which was supported by the Pentagon itself, gives the lie to the claim that transgender Americans disrupt the cohesion or readiness of the U.S. military,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, an advocacy group. “If the military really cares about cohesion, it should read the research it funds or stop wasting taxpayer money.”

INDUSTRY WATCH: The State Department has notified Congress it has approved a possible sale of four Textron Beechcraft AT-6C Wolverine Light Attack Aircraft to Tunisia.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the defense capabilities and capacity of a major non-NATO ally, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in North Africa,” said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a statement.

The Rundown
Washington Examiner: Sharing the cost of US troops in Korea: Washington and Seoul must 'bridge the gap' on making a deal, experts say

Stars and Stripes: With U.S.-Taliban Pact Moving Forward, Afghan Political Rivals Might Set Aside Election Drama

Washington Examiner: Beware the office printer: It may be a Chinese spy device, experts say

USNI News: SECDEF Esper Faced Bipartisan Criticism Over ‘Anemic’ Shipbuilding Plan

Washington Times: Pentagon: China Threat Increasing

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Forces Return To Saudi Arabia To Deter Attacks By Iran

AP: U.S. Adds Leader Of Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia To Terrorism Blacklist

Reuters: Turkey-Backed Rebels Regain Key Syrian Town Of Saraqeb - Opposition

Defense News: Here’s What Esper’s AFRICOM Review Has Decided So Far

New York Times: Syrian Children Freeze to Death. Bombs Rain Down. And ‘Nobody Cares.’

Military Times: Military Stepping Up Coronavirus Prevention Efforts For U.S. Troops In Thailand During Multinational Cobra Gold Exercise

Washington Post: Iran struggles to contain coronavirus outbreak, putting Middle East countries at risk

National Interest: Iran's Coronavirus Disaster Will Spread, and that means Iraq will likely suffer the most

AP: Duterte Says Philippines Can Survive Without America


8 a.m. Orlando, Fl. — Day two of the Air Force Association 2020 Air Warfare Symposium, with Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; U.S. Northern Commander Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy; Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Charles Brown; Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; Air Combat Commander Gen. James Holmes, and others. Agenda at

8:30 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. — “Fiscal Note” CQ Roll Call discussion on the "Defense and the Federal Budget 2021,” with House Budget ranking member Steve Womack, R-Ark.; Matt Padilla, national security counsel in the office of Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M.; John Luddy, vice president of national security policy at the Aerospace Industries Association; John Nichols, partner at the Potomac Advocates; and John Donnelly, senior national security reporter at CQ Roll Call

9 a.m. 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md.— The American Conservative Union holds its annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Agenda:

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the Department of the Navy, with acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger.

2 p.m. 2154 Rayburn — House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security hearing on U.S. troops who say they were exposed to chemical and radiological hazards while deployed to Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base in Uzbekistan after Sept. 11, 2001, with testimony from retired Air Force Master Sgt. Paul Widener, K2 Veteran; Kim Brooks, spouse of Army Lt. Col. Timothy Brooks; and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Scott Welsch. Livestream at

2:30 p.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing: “Strategic Forces Posture,” with John Rood, outgoing undersecretary of defense for policy; U.S. Space Commander Gen. John Raymond; and U.S. Strategic Commander, Adm. Charles Richard.

3:30 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing: “Air Force Projection Forces Aviation Programs and Capabilities Related to the 2021 President's Budget Request, with William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force, acquisition, technology and logistics; and Lt. Gen. David Nahom, Air Force deputy chief of staff, plans and programs.


8 a.m. Orlando, Fl. — Day three of the Air Force Association 2020 Air Warfare Symposium, with, Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology And Logistics; Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein; and Elon Musk, SpaceX Chief Engineer and Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander, Space and Missile Systems Center. Agenda at

9 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — Brookings Institution discussion: "How a Modernized Navy will Compete with China and Russia,” with acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, and Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings.

9 a.m. 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md.— The American Conservative Union holds its annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Agenda:

5 p.m. 1521 16th St. N.W. — Institute of World Politics book discussion on "To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence," with author Jim Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence.


10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — Brookings Institution discussion: “Congress and defense policy: A conversation with Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.”

10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — Brookings Institution discussion: “Defending NATO’s eastern flank: A conversation on Russia with Estonia’s minister of defense,” with Jüri Luik Estonian MoD.


10:30 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the Department of the Army,” with testimony from Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.

2 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 Air Force and Space Force Readiness Posture,” with testimony from Shon Manasco, acting undersecretary of the Air Force; Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force vice chief of staff; and Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander, U.S. Space Force.

2:30 p.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request for Nuclear Forces and Atomic Energy Defense Activities,’ with testimony from Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration; Victorino Mercado, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities; Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, Navy director, Strategic Systems Programs; Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration; and Allison Bawden, director, natural resources and environment team, Government Accountability Office.


9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. — McAleese Defense Programs Conference, with national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment; Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, and more than a dozen others.

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the Department of the Air Force,’ with testimony from Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein; Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations, U.S. Space Force.

2:30 p.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request for U.S. Cyber Command and Operations in Cyberspace,” with testimony from Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security; and U.S. Cyber Commander and National Security Agency Director Army Gen. Paul Nakasone.

2:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. N.W. — Center for the National Interest and the Eurasia Center debate: “Why should the US care about Ukraine?” with Will Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute; and Alina Polyakova, president & CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. The moderators are Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest; and Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Eurasia Center. Register at :

9:30 p.m. ET Hoover Institution, Stanford, Ca. — Intelligence Squared U.S. debates "The Maximum Pressure Campaign Against Iran Is Working,” with former national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster and Military Historian Victor Davis Hanson arguing for the proposition and Martha Crenshaw, terrorism studies expert and Abbas Milani of the Iran Democracy Project arguing against. Streamed live at


9:30 a.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2021 Army and Marine Corps Ground Modernization Programs,” with testimony from Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology; Gen. John Murray, commanding general, Army Futures Command; Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; and James Geurts, assistant secretary of the navy for research, development, and acquisition

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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