Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Senate turns focus to defense bill | GOP senator pushes to remove Confederate provision | Trump signals US troops moving from Germany to Poland

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is on deck in the Senate.

The Senate is turning its attention to the mammoth defense policy bill after a GOP policing reform bill failed to overcome a key test vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) teed up the NDAA on Wednesday, setting up an initial procedural vote as soon as Friday unless senators agree to move it up. 

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters that the chamber would be on the defense bill “for the balance of this week and into next week.”

The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington, D.C., for a two-week break starting July 3, leaving open the possibility that the Senate could have to finish its work on the defense legislation after it returns to Washington in mid-July. It typically takes the Senate roughly two weeks to debate and pass the NDAA. 

Confederate name debate revs up: On Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) outlined his amendment to nix the NDAA’s requirement that the Pentagon implement, within three years, a plan to rename bases and other military installations named for Confederates.

“This latest effort to unilaterally rename bases and remove war memorials, all behind closed doors, smacks of the cancel culture the Left wants to impose on the nation,” Hawley said in a statement.

“Any discussion about renaming bases should be had in the light of day, out in the open, and it should involve military families, veterans, and state and local stakeholders. That’s what my amendment would do,” he added.

Meanwhile, Democrats unveiled a proposal to shorten the timeline for renaming the bases to one year instead of three, setting down their marker ahead of the NDAA floor debate.

“Senate Democrats are putting forward legislation to change the names of our bases and other military assets within one year because we need to stop honoring this ugly legacy immediately,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), lead sponsor of the Democratic bill, said in a statement Wednesday.

Warren said the Senate Armed Services Committee “has already passed a version of my proposal in the annual defense bill — and Senate Republicans should make sure that bipartisan compromise stays intact.”

In the House: All House Armed Services subcommittees have approved their portions of the bill as of Tuesday afternoon.

The full committee will meet in exactly one week, when the juiciest topics – from Confederate names to the border wall to troops in Germany – are expected to come up.


TRUMP SIGNALS TROOP SHUFFLE: President Trump said Wednesday the United States will likely move some of the troops being shifted out of Germany into Poland.

The comment came after a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House.

“They’ll be paying for the sending of additional troops, and we’ll probably be moving them from Germany to Poland,” Trump told reporters at a joint press conference with Duda in the Rose Garden. “We’re going to be reducing Germany very substantially down to about 25,000 troops.”

Trump’s remark essentially confirmed speculation that the administration would move some of the troops it plans to withdraw from Germany to Poland, though he did not offer any further details beyond saying it was a likelihood. 

“We’re going to be reducing our forces in Germany. Some will be coming home, and some will be going to other places. But Poland would be one of those other places. Other places in Europe,” Trump said.

The president abruptly announced earlier this month that he planned to reduce the permanent U.S. troop presence in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000.


NATIONAL GUARD ON STANDBY FOR MONUMENT PROTECTION: The D.C. National Guard has activated hundreds of troops to help U.S. Park Police secure the capital’s national monuments.

The activation, which was approved by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the request of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, comes as Trump and other administration officials have been critical of protesters responding to the police killing of George Floyd and efforts to remove or deface various statues.

A statement from the Pentagon said the 400 National Guardsmen would play a civil disturbance and security role around the District.

“They remain on standby at the DC Armory at this time. They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement.

“The National Guard personnel will not be armed, and will serve as a uniformed deterrence and crowd management capacity to maintain closures and restricted areas.”

Context: On Tuesday, Trump vowed to crack down on anyone caught vandalizing a monument after some protesters attempted to topple the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act,” he tweeted. 

Later Tuesday night, Bernhardt told Fox News he requested the National Guard’s assistance to protect monuments.


NOMINEES ADVANCE: The Senate Armed Committee advanced Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson’s nomination to be chief of the National Guard Bureau in a voice vote Wednesday.

In the same voice vote, which covered more than 1,000 military nominees, the committee also advanced Gen. Gustave Perna’s nomination to be chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed up development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Both now move to the full Senate for a floor vote.



U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris will give an opening address at day two of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ “ROK-U.S. Strategic Forum 2020” at 8 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will speak at the German Marshall Fund’s virtual Brussels Forum at 11 a.m. 

Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, will speak at an online event hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies at 11 a.m.

The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service will host its culminating event featuring fireside chats with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former national security adviser Susan Rice at 2 p.m. 

The Center for a New American Security will host a virtual fireside chat with Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations, at 3 p.m.



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– Defense News: Republicans eye meeting on troubled Pentagon policy nomination

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren John Thune Josh Hawley Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Ryan McCarthy

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