Overnight Defense: Debate over Mattis heats up | White House releases military force rules

Overnight Defense: Debate over Mattis heats up | White House releases military force rules
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THE TOPLINE: The debate over President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE's decision to nominate retired Gen. James Mattis as his secretary of Defense heated up on Monday.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) became the second lawmaker to say he wouldn't back a waiver for Mattis to serve in the position before the required seven-year cooling-off period after military service.

The Hill's Kristina Wong has the story:


"As a veteran, I believe strongly in the principle of civilian leadership of the military. Current law requires that a military officer be out of active duty for at least seven years before taking the job of defense secretary," Gallego said in a statement announcing his decision.

Gallego is an Iraq War veteran and currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I do not believe this long-standing check should be cast aside, and I will oppose a waiver of this rule, even for someone as exceptionally qualified as General Mattis," he said.

Read more about Gallego's statement here.

Veterans groups on Monday though praised the choice of Mattis, saying his past military experience makes him an ideal Defense secretary while the United States remains embroiled in conflict overseas. Read more of what the vet groups said here.

MILITARY FORCE RULES: The White House on Monday released a lengthy report compiling the Obama administration's policies governing the use of military force and related counterterrorism issues, such as detention and interrogation policies.

In concert with the release, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum encouraging future administrations to build on the report and asking the National Security Council to update it annually.

"Through this report, I hope to enhance the public's understanding of the legal and policy principles that have guided U.S. national security operations, and to reinforce the fact that we defend our interests at home and around the world in a manner consistent with the laws, values, and traditions that are the source of our greatest strength," Obama wrote in an introduction to the report.

Read more here.

JAPAN PM TO PEARL HARBOR: Japan's prime minister will visit Pearl Harbor later this month, becoming the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the attack that drew the United States into World War II.

On Dec. 27, President Obama will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Honolulu, Hawaii, and accompany Abe to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor to honor those killed, the White House said. 

"The two leaders' visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values," spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.

Read more here.

REACTION TO GITMO TRANSFER: The latest transfer out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility prompted a call Monday for a stop to all transfers in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonCotton tells Garland: 'Thank God you're not on the Supreme Court' It's time for Fauci to go — but don't expect it to happen Is the Navy totally at sea? MORE (R-Ark.) called on the Obama administration to halt any further transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees, after officials announced another release over the weekend.

"The inmates remaining at Guantanamo are the worst of the worst and need to remain where they are so they cannot return to the battlefield and attack us once again," Cotton said in a statement.

The Pentagon announced Sunday it transferred Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, a 35-year-old Yemeni, to Cabo Verde, a tiny nation off the northwest coast of Africa. The transfer brings the number of detainees remaining down to 59.

Read more on Cotton's statement and the transfer, from The Hill's Kristina Wong, here.

The transfer also prompted a call for Obama to fulfill his pledge to close the facility and deny President-elect Donald Trump the opportunity to fill it back up.

"Trump has clearly indicated that he would like to hold even more people without charge or trial at Guantánamo, and re-instate waterboarding and other forms of torture and ill-treatment. Simply put, President Obama should not leave Guantánamo to Trump," Amnesty International USA's security and human rights program senior campaigner Elizabeth Beavers said in a statement Sunday.


The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on emerging defense challenges at 9:30 a.m. in the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. http://bit.ly/2gQDLKZ

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia" at 2 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. http://bit.ly/2gP252l

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on countering Iranian proxies at 2:30 p.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. http://bit.ly/2gJ1ah0


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-- Associated Press: Carter confident Mattis will be ready to take command

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com 

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