Overnight Defense: Navy pulls plug on $500 million railgun effort | Esper defends Milley after Trump attacks | Navy vet charged in Jan. 6 riot wants trial moved

Overnight Defense: Navy pulls plug on $500 million railgun effort | Esper defends Milley after Trump attacks | Navy vet charged in Jan. 6 riot wants trial moved
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Happy Thursday 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: The Navy is shifting away from its electromagnetic railgun after more than 10 years of trying to create a weapon that uses electricity to fire projectiles at up to seven times the speed of sound, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The service, which once considered using the futuristic armament on new Zumwalt-class destroyers, cut railgun research funding from its most recent budget proposal.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Courtney Callaghan confirmed to The Hill that the decision to pause railgun research, which would come at the end of the fiscal year, "is consistent with department-wide reform initiatives" to free up resources for hypersonic missiles, directed-energy systems like lasers and electronic warfare systems.

The reasoning: "Given fiscal constraints, combat system integration challenges, and the prospective technology maturation of other weapon concepts, the Navy decided to pause research and development of the Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) at the end of 2021," she said in a statement.

The Navy spent about $500 million total on research and development of the railgun over more than a decade, Bryan Clark, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, told the AP.

The move comes as the Pentagon wants to focus on hypersonic missiles to keep pace with China and Russia. 

Issues: What’s more, the Navy has long struggled with perfecting a railgun, a technology that only got so far as a prototype.

Railguns use electricity, instead of gunpowder or fuel, to fire a projectile at six or seven times the speed of sound, a rate that would create enough kinetic energy to blow up a target.

But the Navy couldn’t get the railgun to fire beyond 110 miles in testing, which would mean a Navy ship couldn’t use the weapon without getting itself in range of enemy missiles. 

It’s also unknown if the gun could stay together after only a few shots due to a massive electric current and magnetic forces it would need to work.

Read more here.



Former Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperMilley and China — what the Senate really needs to know Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war MORE defended Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Thompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' MORE amid attacks on the top general by former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE.

Esper hailed Milley on Twitter as a “person of impeccable integrity and professionalism” and said attempts to denigrate him are wrong.

The defense: “Personal attacks on GEN Mark Milley and calls for him to resign are completely unwarranted. He and I worked together for 3+ years to advance America’s security and strengthen our armed forces. He is an officer and person of impeccable integrity and professionalism,” Esper said on Twitter.

“GEN Milley is a decorated veteran who has served our great country for 4+decades. His patriotism & commitment to the Constitution are without question,” he continued. “Attempts to denigrate him & politicize our military are wrong. I will always stand with/for him and the US military.”

Earlier: The former Pentagon chief didn’t directly name Trump in his comments. But the defense comes after Trump - who appointed Milley to the job of Joint Chief’s chairman - called for the general’s resignation on Wednesday after the general gave an impassioned speech during a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week about his desire to understand “white rage” in the military.

The statement followed similar criticisms from other conservatives, including Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonStefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right 90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive MORE, who called Milley a “pig.”

Read more here.



 The lawyer for the Navy veteran and one of the Oath Keeper members charged with conspiracy and other crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is pushing for a venue change for the case, arguing that his trial would be unfair because D.C. residents “despise” traditional American values. 

In a “motion to transfer venue” filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the defense team for Thomas Caldwell argues that his case should be moved to the federal court in the Western District of Virginia. 

The argument: The filing argued that Washington, D.C., is the “birthplace of ‘The Resistance,’ ” which it defined as “a loosely organized movement among left-wing activists to thwart President Trump’s lawful executive orders and actions.” 

Caldwell’s lawyer specifically cited protests surrounding Trump’s 2016 inauguration, alleging that demonstrators were seen “destroying businesses, cars, and other property, and attacking Trump supporters.” 

“District residents not only despise Caldwell’s politics — they despise many things that traditional America stands for,” Caldwell’s attorney argued. 

Caldwell’s charges: Caldwell, as well as additional alleged Oath Keeper members such as Jessica Marie Watkins and Donovan Crowl, have each been charged with conspiracy to “stop, delay and hinder Congress's certification of the Electoral College vote."

Additionally, Caldwell faces a series of other charges, including obstruction to an official processing, destruction of government property, and entering and remaining in a restricted area. 

Elsewhere: Earlier this week Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, a Marine Corps officer, on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.

Warnagiris in March became the first active-duty service member to be charged in connection with the attack.

He was charged with nine counts, including assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; and obstruction of justice.

The Pentagon is now in the midst of trying to root out extremism from the ranks after several Jan. 6 suspects had military connections.

Read more here.



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