Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Biden rallies support for Ukraine in Alabama

AP Photo, Evan Vucci

President Biden traveled to Troy, Ala., on Tuesday during which he pressed for support of his $33 billion supplemental request for Ukraine assistance.

We’ll break down the visit. Plus, we’ll recap a report finding that the Department of Homeland Security under former President Trump altered and delayed a report on election interference.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Biden visits missile plant

President Biden on Tuesday visited a Lockheed Martin facility in Alabama to commend workers there for producing Javelin anti-tank missiles helping Ukraine fend off the Russian military invasion. 

After his tour, he gave remarks thanking the workers for their efforts and pushed for the passage of his $33 billion supplemental funding request for Ukraine.  

‘Making fool’ of the Russians: “You’re allowing the Ukrainians to defend themselves, and, quite frankly, they’re making fools of the Russian military in many instances,” Biden said in remarks after touring the facility in Troy, Ala.  

“A big part of the reason they’ve been able to keep up fighting and to make this war a strategic failure for Russia is because the United States together with our allies and partners have had their back.”   

“You’re changing the nation,” he added. “You really are.” 

The case for more funding: Biden administration officials have warned the war, which began at the end of February, could go on for months or longer.  

“I urge the Congress to pass this funding quickly to help Ukraine to continue to succeed against Russian aggression,” Biden said, making the case for the additional funding. “This fight is not going to be cheap, but caving to aggression would be even more costly.”   

About the facility: The Lockheed Martin facility in Troy produces thousands of Javelin anti-tank missile systems each year.   

According to the White House, the U.S. government and its allies have transferred a total of 5,500 Javelins to Ukraine to fend off Russian aggression. 

Biden drew a direct connection between the Pike County facility, which employs about 600 people, and the U.S. support for Ukraine, telling the workers they should be proud of themselves for helping the Ukrainians fight.   

“I came for a basic reason, from the bottom of my heart, to say thank you,” the president said, wrapping up his remarks. “Unless you go out in the field and see it, you don’t realize what a difference you’re making.”   

Read more here.

Trump DHS altered interference report: watchdog

Former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf intervened to delay release of an intelligence report flagging Russian involvement in the 2020 election, while other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials sought to “blunt” the focus on the country in the report, according to a government watchdog

A Tuesday report from DHS’s Office of Inspector General concluded that DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) wrongly let politics interfere with the dissemination of the report, which documented a Russian disinformation campaign surrounding President Biden’s mental acuity. 

The main finding: “I&A employees during the review and clearance process changed the product’s scope by making changes that appear to be based in part on political considerations, potentially impacting I&A’s compliance with Intelligence Community policy,” OIG concluded in the report, which found that “DHS did not adequately follow its internal processes.” 

The original report: The initial intelligence report, “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Electoral Dynamics,” was proposed after an I&A employee “noticed an uptick in Russian state media efforts to question candidate Joseph Biden’s mental health.”

“The analyst believed foreign efforts questioning a candidate’s health were worth exploring because they could impact voters’ willingness to vote for that candidate and began drafting the product,” the latest report states.

Despite reservations by the author, I&A added a “tone box” to include references to China and Iran’s efforts to promote unsubstantiated narratives questioning the mental health of then-President Trump. The report notes the tone box is the only part of the intelligence product where the other two countries are discussed. 

Inside the decision: According to the report, Wolf said in a July 8, 2020 meeting that the intelligence product should be “held” because it “made the President look bad.” 

OIG concluded Wolf’s interference and other changes violated requirements that require intelligence products to be objective and independent of political consideration.

Wolf’s side: Wolf for his part told investigators his concerns were not political, but that he questioned the workmanship behind the product. 

Wolf also raised his concerns about the product as early as July 7, going on to protest its dissemination in a meeting the following day and blocking its planned July 9 release. Wolf intervened again when the product was set to be released in mid-August. 

The report was eventually approved for dissemination on Sept. 4 

Read the full story here.

Navy lets sailors move off embattled aircraft carrier

The Navy is allowing sailors to move off the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and live at a local installation after a string of deaths over the past year, including three suicides last month alone. 

“The Commanding Officer of USS George Washington has taken steps to provide an opportunity to every Sailor who is currently living on the ship to elect to move to off-ship accommodations at a local installation,” Lt. Cmdr. Rob Myers, a Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesperson, told The Hill in a statement. 

Myers said that sailors began moving off the ship on Monday and that the move will continue until “all Sailors who wish to move off-ship have done so.” 

The move was first reported by Military.com, which obtained a recording of the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brent Gaut, announcing the change to sailors Thursday. According to the outlet, 422 sailors are living on board the ship. 

The change comes as the Navy deals with fallout after acknowledging that seven sailors assigned to the George Washington died over the past year, including three apparent suicides in mid-April. The Navy also told The Hill last week that three of its sailors died by suicide between November 2019 and October 2020. 

Read more here.

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. will host an event featuring Northrop Grumman president and CEO Kathy Warden at 7:30 a.m.  
  • The National Defense Industrial Association will host the 18th U.S.-Sweden Defense Industry Conference at 8:30 a.m. 
  • The Stimson Center will host a discussion on “Shrouded in Secrecy: Examining Key Challenges to Arms Trade Transparency” at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion titled “Maritime Security Dialogue: Force Design 2030 and Marine Corps Modernization Efforts” at 1 p.m.

SENATE

  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security at 10 a.m.
  • The Foreign Relations Committee will have a full committee business meeting at 10 a.m. 
  • The Foreign Relations Committee will have a full committee hearing on nominations at 2:15 p.m. 
  • The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee will hold a hearingon “Resources and Authorities Needed to Protect and Secure the Homeland” at 2:30 p.m. 
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough will testify before an Appropriations subcommittee

WHAT WE’RE READING

REPUBLICANS PUSH TO NIX DISINFORMATION BOARD

Republican lawmakers in both chambers have introduced legislation to block the Department of Homeland Security from rolling out its new Disinformation Governance Board less than a week after it was unveiled. 

The board was designed to coordinate DHS’s disinformation efforts on topics as varied as migration, natural disasters, and plots by foreign actors while offering oversight to ensure civil liberties and free speech are protected.

But in the days since it was rolled out, Republicans have seized on the board as a way to police speech, while numerous GOP lawmakers called it “dystopian,” dubbing it the Ministry of truth in a nod to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Read more.

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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