Overnight Defense: National Guard leaders defend Puerto Rico response | Dems want more help for island from Pentagon | Top general says Iran complying with nuclear deal

Overnight Defense: National Guard leaders defend Puerto Rico response | Dems want more help for island from Pentagon | Top general says Iran complying with nuclear deal
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THE TOPLINE: The head of the National Guard said there has been no delay in federal help to Puerto Rico despite claims from lawmakers that the territory was not receiving adequate aid.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel said he has not seen any political posturing that would deny or slow aid to the U.S. territory, which has been hit by two powerful Category 5 storms in the past month that killed at least 16 people and knocked out power on the entire island.

"We want to make sure they have everything they need. We're very in touch with the folks in Puerto Rico," Lengyel told reporters on a flight back from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was also hit. He traveled to the island Monday to meet with government officials and assess the damage.

"The National Guard Puerto Rico, we have the capacity to send them if they need them," he said.

Read the rest here.

 

Lengyel also said the clean-up efforts for U.S. territories following Hurricane Maria are expected to be far more complicated and lengthy than those for Florida and Texas in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

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"Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are not Texas and Florida. They're out here in the middle of the ocean. It's more complicated to get people here, it's more complicated to fix the power grids, it's more complicated to fix a whole lot of other things," Lengyel told The Hill while traveling to St. Croix.

Read more here.

 

DEMS WANT MORE PENTAGON HELP FOR PUERTO RICO: A group of Democratic lawmakers is urging Defense Secretary James Mattis to send additional military resources to Puerto Rico after back-to-back hurricanes created "harrowing conditions" on the U.S. territory.

The lawmakers said they appreciate the Pentagon's current contributions to disaster relief on the island following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but they "remain deeply concerned" by reports of flooding, and a lack of power and running water on the island.

"[We] urge you – in coordination with the Governor of Puerto Rico, [Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA and other federal and local government partners – to rapidly deploy additional assets and resources to the island to assist in meeting the urgent needs of the 3.4 million American citizens living there," Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Darren Soto (Fla.) and José Serrano (N.Y.) wrote in a Tuesday letter.

The Pentagon has already deployed Joint Task Force Leeward Islands to Puerto Rico to assist with water purification, medical evacuations, damage assessments and other tasks. In addition, the National Guard has about 1,375 troops on the island to help in restoration efforts.

Even with the already deployed aide, the island’s more than 3.4 million residents “are enduring severe shortages of basic necessities, including gasoline, food and water,” as well as loss of power across the territory, the lawmakers write.

Read about that here.

 

JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: TRANSGENDER TROOPS SHOULDN'T BE SEPERATED FROM MILITARY: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday he has advised Trump administration officials that transgender troops should not be separated from the military.

Asked by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDem: Ex-lawmaker tried to pin me to elevator door and kiss me In Washington and Hollywood, principle is sad matter of timing Mika Brzezinski: Bill Clinton needs to apologize or stop talking MORE (D-N.Y.) whether he agrees that currently serving transgender troops have served with "honor and valor," Gen. Joseph Dunford replied, "I do."

"I believe that any individual who meets the physical and mental standards and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve," continued Dunford.

When asked by Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) whether he can promise that currently serving transgender troops will not be separated based solely on their gender identity, Dunford said that's been his advice as the Pentagon reviews its transgender policy.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has the rest here.

 

TOP GENERAL SAYS IRAN COMPLYING WITH NUKE DEAL: Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, also said Tuesday that Iran is complying with a landmark nuclear deal and that the agreement has achieved its intended result of curbing Iran's nuclear program.

"The briefings I have received indicate that Iran is adhering to its [plan of action] obligations," Dunford wrote in answers to policy questions ahead of his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing to serve a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

But Dunford added that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has done nothing to deter Iran from its other malign activities. Dunford said the deal was specifically designed to address only Iran’s nuclear program and not the other four threats he sees emanating from Iran: its missile program, its maritime threat, its support for proxies and its cyber activities.

Read more here.

 

DEMS TO MATTIS: HOW MANY PEOPLE WOULD DIE IN WAR WITH N. KOREA: A pair of Democratic lawmakers wants Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisEric Trump: My father is 'not playing' on national security NSC to present Trump M deal to arm Ukraine against Russia Iraqi forces retake last ISIS-held town MORE to detail how many casualties the Pentagon expects in the event of war with North Korea.

"Before this administration leads America down the dark, bloody and uncertain path of war with North Korea, the American people and their representatives in Congress deserve answers," Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) wrote Tuesday in a letter to Mattis.

The letter comes as U.S.-North Korean tensions continue ratcheting up. On Monday, North Korea's foreign minister said President Trump's recent comments on the country amount to a "declaration of war" that would justify North Korea shooting down a U.S. bomber.

The minister's comment came after Trump said in his United Nations speech last week that the United States will "totally destroy" North Korea if necessary and tweeted that leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer."

The White House has dismissed North Korea's claim that it declared war, calling it "absurd."

Read more here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

House Foreign Affairs will have a joint subcommittee hearing on the administration's budget request for Afghanistan and Pakistan at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. http://bit.ly/2wO2vOB

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will have a hearing on threats to the homeland with testimony from acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 342. http://bit.ly/2ho9Vy5

 A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Army's tactical networking modernization at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2212. http://bit.ly/2feKIWj

A Foreign Affairs subcommittee will have a hearing on Rwanda at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2200. http://bit.ly/2jQ0ZWE

Another Foreign Affairs subcommittee will have a hearing on the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2yvyDo4

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on suicide prevention with testimony from VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVA Secretary Shulkin seeks larger role for private health care We have a duty to take care of our veterans, but we're letting them die Supporting our veterans is a year-round job MORE at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 418. http://bit.ly/2hgZUCX

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: Dunford: North Korea has not changed military posture despite rhetoric

-- The Hill: Pacific Fleet chief to retire after being passed over for promotion

-- The Hill: Dem election task force to hear from Obama Homeland Security chief

-- The Hill: Tillerson's No. 2 faces questions over State cyber closure

-- The Hill: Trump targets N. Korean banks, workers in new sanctions

-- The Hill: Kremlin warns of consequences as North Korea stand-off heats up

-- The Hill: Pentagon: 44 percent of Puerto Ricans lack clean drinking water

 

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

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