Overnight Defense: Duckworth calls for examination of service members' social media | Biden's Afghan withdrawal timeline raises doubts | Suez Canal reopened after nearly a week

Overnight Defense: Duckworth calls for examination of service members' social media | Biden's Afghan withdrawal timeline raises doubts | Suez Canal reopened after nearly a week
© Greg Nash

Happy Monday 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.

THE TOPLINE: Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense & National Security — Austin mandates vaccine for Guardsmen Biden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' MORE (D-Ill.) on Monday suggested that the Pentagon find a way to examine the social media habits of incoming and existing service members who show tendencies toward extremist views.

“It’s not a new thing, but I will tell you that I have seen over the last, probably two decades, this growing radicalization of a portion within the military. And I think part of it too, comes with social media consumption,” Duckworth, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said at The Hill's "Future of Defense Summit."

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A new approach: Duckworth, a former combat pilot in the Iraq War, said she discussed with Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine National Guard Bureau chief tests positive for COVID-19 MORE the need to understand what information young troops are receiving on their personal devices and whether they are trained to recognize false information. 

She told The Hill’s Steve Clemons that the Defense Department needs to figure out which troops are coming into the military with extremist opinions and tendencies, in addition to figuring out “what media they’re consuming while they’re in [service] and whose targeting them.”

A long-time problem: Extremism in the military has been under scrutiny following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Nearly 25 percent of people charged in connection to the insurrection had some connection to the military, and the Pentagon later acknowledged that white supremacist and similar fringe groups “very aggressively recruit soon-to-be veterans.” 

But because the Pentagon has limited data on just how deep the problem runs, the department has struggled to point to a clear increase or decrease in such a problem and ways to address it.

Austin in January ordered a 60-day stand down across the force to address extremism, but Democrat lawmakers have pressed for screening public social media activity for red flags as part of how incoming service members are scrutinized.

Unknowns: Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who also spoke at Monday’s event, pointed to social media as a large unknown in how it motivates service members “towards the kinds of events we saw happen on Jan. 6.”

"What we don’t know enough of right now, very frankly, is how to get our arms around the influence of social media basically prying into this anger and frustration and fears that are out there ... We haven’t done a good job, frankly, at looking at the root cause for terrorism in our own country."

OVER THE WEEKEND—BIDEN’S AFGHANISTAN PREDICTION SPURS DOUBTS

President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE’s prediction that all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by next year is being met with some skepticism.

Past predictions and vows, including from Biden himself, of an end date for America’s longest war have come and gone with troops still there years later.

Now, Biden is the commander in chief with the power to order all troops out if he wants.

But he is liable to face the same hurdles that thwarted his predecessors’ efforts to end U.S. involvement in the war, including grave warnings from military commanders and some lawmakers.

Past predictions: Biden has predicted an end to the war before that did not come to fruition.

As vice president in 2012, Biden vowed that “we are leaving in 2014. Period.”

Then-President Obama did declare an end to U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 with the intention of withdrawing by the end of his presidency.

Ultimately, though, Obama reversed plans to withdraw on the advice of his military advisers, leaving office with about 8,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE also repeatedly pushed to withdraw from Afghanistan, railing against what he characterized as the U.S. military policing the world.

Read more here.

SUEZ CANAL SHIP FREED

World leaders and businesses breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday when the enormous container ship blocking the Suez Canal was freed after wreaking havoc on global trade for almost a week.

The incident affected nearly 300 ships containing over $9.6 billion worth of goods, laying bare the fragility of supply chains at a time when the world is increasingly dependent on shipments of cheap goods from the far reaches of the planet.

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What happened: The initial blockage caused by the Ever Given, a 224,000-ton, Panamanian-flagged container ship, captivated the world on March 23, when the vessel ran aground and prevented passage through a vital trade route where billions of dollars of goods are moved daily by hundreds of ships.

An estimated 10 percent of the world’s trade moves through the canal, from oil and natural gas to consumer products and livestock.

The ship was freed by the Dutch-dredging company Boskalis, digging up and removing approximately 30,000 cubic-meters of sand around the ship, using over a dozen tug boats to push and maneuver the Ever Given and assisted by the good timing of high tide.

Weaknesses exposed: The frustrations over the jam exposed the challenge of global reliance on shipping and delivery industries, particularly for companies that require parts from multiple countries for building, assembly and manufacturing.

Weaknesses in the global supply chain were most apparent at the outset of the pandemic, when maritime shipping was disrupted by a backup at sea ports, mostly by lack of available staff over concerns of the virus spreading. Air freight cargo shipments also ground to a halt but have largely resumed.

President Biden last month signed an executive order calling for a review within 100 days of the global supply chain for vital goods imported to the U.S. — looking at things like high-capacity batteries; critical and rare-earth minerals; medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients and personal protective equipment. 

Read the rest here.

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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Heritage Foundation will hold a webinar on “Confronting Russian Interference in U.S.-Czech Missile Defense Cooperation,” with Lt. Col. Otakar Foltyn, security expert in the Czech Ministry of Defense, at 10 a.m. 

The Center for American Progress will hold a webinar on “Reinvigorating Diplomacy with North Korea,” with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Korea and Japan Marc Knapper, at 10:30 a.m.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and U.S. Army Pacific head Gen. Paul LaCamera will speak at a Center for Strategic and International Studies webinar on “The Army in the Indo-Pacific,” at 11 a.m.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold a webinar on “North Korean Military Hackers Commit Cyberattacks," at 2 p.m.

The Hudson Institute will hold a webinar on "China's Techno-Authoritarianism, Political Interference, and Influence Operations," with Harry Krejsa, cyber policy adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, at 4 p.m. 

ICYMI

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-- The Hill: Strange tweet from US Strategic Command goes viral before it is deleted
 
-- The Hill: Suez Canal reopens as Ever Given successfully removed
 
-- The Hill: Five things to know about the cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal
 
-- The Hill: Biden fires majority of DHS advisory council members
 
-- The Hill: Hackers accessed emails of top DHS officials as part of SolarWinds breach: report

-- The Hill: North Korea pushes back on Biden's criticism of its missile test

-- The New York Times: Officials Try to Sway Biden Using Intelligence on Potential for Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

-- Stars and Stripes: Fort Hood-based brigade commander under investigation after allegations of toxic leadership, flouting coronavirus rules

-- The Washington Post: Deadly Marine Corps disaster at sea was ‘tragic’ and ‘preventable,’ investigation finds