Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military

Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military
© Bonnie Cash

Happy Tuesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, 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.

3 stories tonight...

1) THE TOPLINE: Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate GOP likely to nix plan Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Manchin signals he'll be team player on spending deal MORE (D-Va.), a longtime advocate for giving Congress more power over a president’s ability to wage war unilaterally, says he will begin moving this week to repeal or amend the congressional authorizations used to justify numerous foreign military conflicts the past two decades.

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Kaine, who expressed frustration that Congress didn’t get advanced notification before President BidenJoe BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' MORE approved airstrikes in Syria last week, said lawmakers need to claw back some of their war powers authority. He plans to introduce a bipartisan resolution to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force against Iraq.

“I just strongly believe — and this goes back to the drafting of the Constitution and the earliest understandings of it — is that if a president is defending against an ongoing attack or imminent attack, the president does have some unilateral power and that’s good. But the idea of going on offense against groups, that’s traditionally where you ought to be coming to Congress,” he said. 

No notification: The senator said he was “not notified at all” about the Syria strike and neither were “many of the people” in Congress who should have been consulted.

Biden last week ordered air strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria that hit “multiple facilities” and resulted in nearly two dozen deaths, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, said one militant was killed and two were injured, describing the attack as “proportionate” and "defensive" after U.S. forces came under rocket attack in Iraq, causing the death of a civilian contractor.

A new resolution: Kaine said that on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday he's “likely to introduce a bipartisan resolution with Republican colleagues that would repeal the two Iraq authorizations, Gulf War I and then the Iraq '02.”

“Congress doesn’t repeal these things. We pass them and they’re just floating out there to be used — they can be used in mischievous ways to justify actions long after the original crisis has passed,” he said.

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Three steps: He said the first step is to “repeal unnecessary” authorizations for use of military force, such as the two resolutions Congress passed against Iraq, and to then work to update and reform the 2001 authorization for use of military force against “those nations, organizations or persons” who planned, authorized or aided the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The 2001 authorization was used to send U.S. troops into Afghanistan in October of that year and the military conflict against al Qaeda and the Taliban has spread to other countries such as Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.

Kaine says “step three” is to update the 1974 War Powers Act. 

Talks with the White House: Kaine said he expects to speak to Biden administration officials Tuesday afternoon about last week’s strike. 

Kaine said he got the same letter that all of his colleagues received two days later informing them of the strike.

“I also was like everybody in the country, I learned about it on the news. I’m on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committee[s]. I don’t think I should be learning about it that way,” he said.

“We’ll probably have some kind of briefing with the White House about this,” he said. 

 

2) PENTAGON STUDY: Service members sexually harassed are more likely to be sexually assaulted

Service members who are sexually harassed in the military are more likely to become sexually assaulted, according to a new study commissioned by the Defense Department (DOD).

The study, released on Tuesday and conducted by Rand Corp., found that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are “strongly linked,” with female service members who experienced sexual harassment 14 times more likely to indicate that they were also sexually assaulted. 

The odds were even worse for male service members. The study found that men who were sexually harassed in the past year were almost 50 times more likely to have been sexually assaulted in the same time period compared to those who had not recently experienced sexual harassment. 

A ‘single underlying disorder’: The study concludes that when sexual harassment is allowed to occur, it increases the likelihood that sexual assault will occur within the unit, and that the U.S. military should treat sexual harassment and assault as a “single underlying disorder,” instead of separate problems. 

A new push: The findings come as the Biden administration has begun a new push to address the pervasive issue of sexual assault and harassment in the military.

President Biden last week ordered the launch of a civilian-led commission to address the problem. Lynn Rosenthal, formerly the first White House adviser on violence against women and a prominent gender violence expert, will lead the effort.

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia Warren-backed amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to defense bill Pentagon chief to restore advisory panels after purge of Trump loyalists MORE has made it clear that tackling military sexual assault and harassment is one of his top priorities. 

But the longstanding problem has been difficult to pin down. Even as the Pentagon has thrown resources at the issue over the past 10 years, the number of reported instances of sexual assault has continued to rise in the military.

What the study found: On average, female service members were 1.5 times more likely to be at risk of sexual assault when they worked in environments where sexual harassment was more common. And male service members' sexual assault risk increased by a factor of 1.8 when working in such environments, the report found. 

Certain military services were also more of a risk than others. Navy sailors were more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted when working within units where sexual harassment occurred. The Air Force, meanwhile, was the least likely to report sexual harassment within units.

The report concludes that disciplining service members for sexual harassment could diminish the likelihood of an assault further down the line, and it is easier to handle than the latter, as it is usually more visible. Sexual assaults, by contrast, typically occur in private with only the victim and perpetrator present. 

 

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3) Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names hold first meeting

Members of a congressionally mandated commission tasked with planning how to rename Confederate-named military bases were sworn-in Tuesday at the group’s first meeting, the Army said.

The first meeting, which was held virtually, included discussion about the commission’s “organization and important duties,” Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

The Army has been designated by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to be the Pentagon’s liaison to the commission, according to the statement.

More about the task: The panel, officially called the “Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorates the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America,” was created by last year’s defense policy bill.

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE vetoed the bill in part over the commission, but Congress overrode the veto for the only time during his presidency.

The commission is tasked with planning how to rename or remove “names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia” on Defense Department property that honor the Confederacy. The Pentagon is required to carry out the commission’s plan within three years.

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Who is on the panel: The commission is composed of four members appointed by Austin and four appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

Last month, Austin appointed retired Adm. Michelle Howard, a former vice chief of naval operations and the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, professor emeritus of history at West Point and Kori Schake, a former State and Defense department official who is now director of foreign and defense policy studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedSenate panel votes to make women register for draft Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE (D-R.I.) selected retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the first Black graduate of West Point to serve as head of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGillibrand expects vote on military justice bill in fall The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden backs Cuban protesters, assails 'authoritarian regime' Trump getting tougher for Senate GOP to ignore MORE (R-Okla.) chose veteran Jerry Buchanan, a Tulsa businessman.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithSenate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget Back to '70s inflation? How Biden's spending spree will hurt your wallet Military braces for sea change on justice reform MORE (D-Wash.) picked Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch, a former director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersOvernight Defense: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dies at 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House subpanel advances Pentagon spending bill Pentagon punches back against GOP culture wars Defense contractors ramp up donations to GOP election objectors MORE (R-Ala.) selected fellow committee member Rep. Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottHouse Republican takes part in hearing while driving car Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting MORE (R-Ga.).

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Air Force Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, chief of space operations for the Space Force, will speak at the National Press Club Newsmaker virtual discussion at 9 a.m. 

The Senate Homeland Security and the Senate Rules Committee will hold a joint hearing on “Examining The January 6th Attack On The U.S. Capitol, Part II,” with officials including Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, and Robert Salesses, senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense, homeland defense and global security, at 10 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. 

 

ICYMI

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-- The Hill: Omar introduces bill to sanction Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi killing

-- The Hill: Treasury blacklists Houthi military leaders in Yemen

-- The Hill: Khanna: US airstrikes in Syria 'clearly' violate American and international law

-- Military Times: VA leaders will take part in DoD’s sexual misconduct review commission

-- Stars and Stripes: Naval Academy wants students to begin coronavirus vaccinations by the end of March

-- The Associated Press: China Said to Speed up Move to More Survivable Nuclear Force