Overnight Defense: US moves deeper into Syrian civil war | Latest on deadly destroyer collision | Defense experts push for base closures

Overnight Defense: US moves deeper into Syrian civil war | Latest on deadly destroyer collision | Defense experts push for base closures
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THE TOPLINE: The United States is inching closer to involvement in the Syrian civil war after U.S. forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet on Sunday.

The incident is the fourth time in as many weeks the United States has shot at pro-Syrian regime forces, and carries the potential for further escalation -- particularly with Russia threatening to target U.S. aircraft that fly into parts of Syria.

A statement from the U.S. military said it shot down the Syrian SU-22 in self-defense and after contacting Russian counterparts through the established deconfliction line. The Syrian aircraft was bombing U.S.-backed forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) south of Tabqa.

It was the first time the United States has shot down a Syrian plane, and the first time a U.S. military jet has shot down any manned aircraft since 1999.

Check back at TheHill.com for the full story later.

DUNFORD SAYS PENTAGON WORKING ON DECONFLICTION: As tensions in Syria heat up, the top U.S. military officer said the Pentagon is working on re-establishing deconfliction measures with the Russians.

The Hill's Ellen Mitchell has the story:

"An incident occurred, we have to work through the incident, we have a channel to be able to do that and I think it's going to require some diplomatic and military engagement in the next few hours to restore the deconfliction that we've had in place," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said at a forum at the National Press Club in Washington.

The deconfliction arrangement -- first established with Russia in 2015 to avoid mid-air collisions in Syria as both sides fight militant groups -- was broken after a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet on Sunday shot down a Syrian warplane in the southern part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) stronghold in Syria.

The strike happened after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly came under attack from forces in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Pentagon said the strike complied with the "rules of engagement" and was in self-defense.

Dunford stressed that "the worst thing any of us can do right now is address this thing with hyperbole."

Read the rest here.

Earlier Monday, Russia said it would treat U.S. planes as targets after the incident. A retired general dismissed that threat as "rubbish."


LATEST ON THE FITZGERALD: The Japanese Coast Guard said Monday that a fatal collision between a U.S. guided missile destroyer and a Philippine container ship happened an hour earlier than first reported.

The coast guard said it's investigating the discrepancy, according to multiple reports.

The U.S. Navy and Japanese Coast Guard both initially reported the collision happened around 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday. But on Monday, the coast guard changed its time to 1:30 a.m. after interviewing Filipino crewmembers.

The collision killed seven U.S. sailors and injured three others.

If you missed The Hill's weekend coverage of the incident:

-- US destroyer collides with merchant ship near Japan

-- Search continues for 7 missing US sailors after collision near Japan

-- Trump tweets 'thoughts and prayers' for missing US sailors near Japan

-- 7 sailors missing in ship collision found dead

-- Navy admiral: Fitzgerald incident 'could have been much worse'

-- Navy identifies sailors killed in collision

DEFENSE EXPERTS PUSH FOR MORE BASE CLOSURES: Forty-five leading defense experts, think tank leaders and advocacy group officials are calling on Congress to allow the Pentagon to close excess military bases.

"The time to act is now," they wrote in an open letter to the House and Senate Armed Services committees released Monday. "Congress should grant our military the authority to eliminate waste and ensure that vital defense resources flow to where they are most needed."

The letter was organized by Chris Preble, vice president of defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. The letter was signed by experts from across the political spectrum.

Read more here.


The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Patrick Shanahan, the nominee to be deputy Defense secretary, at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. http://bit.ly/2sj8lTa

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from outside experts on authorizations for the use of military force at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Dirksen 419. http://bit.ly/2siTB6X

A Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee will hold a hearing on the World Health Organization at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Dirksen 419. http://bit.ly/2siTVCt


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

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