Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security – Lawmaker pressure puts missile defense in spotlight

The Pentagon has promised it will soon appoint a lead agency for developing defenses against cruise missiles after lawmakers sought to impose restrictions on the budget of the Defense Department’s No. 2 official over the gap. 

We’ll share the tactics at play to hold the DOD’s feet to the fire, plus the White House’s new pick to lead U.S. Strategic Command and details of a deadly military aircraft crash in California. 

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 Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Pentagon promises cruise missile defense lead

House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Jim Cooper 
(D-Tenn.) on Wednesday said the Pentagon has “recently responded” and promised to designate a lead agency for developing defenses against cruise missiles by the end of July.   

The play: The pledge comes after Cooper included a provision in the subcommittee’s portion of the annual defense authorization bill that would limit 10 percent of the travel salary for Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks in fiscal 2023 over the inaction, a move first reported by Politico

Looming threats: The issue came up during the panel’s markup of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday.   

“The ongoing war in Ukraine reminds us that integrated air and missile defense is vital in modern conflicts,” Cooper said. “The mark … requires that a lead finally be established for cruise missile defense architecture of our homeland — an issue that has festered for the last five years.” 

A confirmation: Asked to confirm Cooper’s account, a Pentagon spokesperson told The Hill that DOD “is committed to designating the lead acquisition authority for cruise missile defense of the homeland by July 31, 2022.”  

“Cruise missile defense is critically important to our national security,” they said in a statement, adding that the Biden administration’s 2023 budget request “is the first ever to include funding ($278 million) for over-the-horizon radars specifically for advancing cruise missile defense of the homeland.” 

A pending strategy: Pentagon officials have been working to finalize a strategy for the homeland defense of cruise missiles. Such missiles can be launched from aircraft, the ground or ships and travel at difficult-to-track hypersonic speeds.  

No Pentagon agency or service has yet been assigned with overseeing the effort. 

The gap has become more apparent with Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, frequent missile tests by North Korea and China’s cruise missile advancements. 

Read the full story here 

Also from The Hill:  

Pentagon names US Strategic Command nominee

President Biden has nominated the head of Air Force Global Strike Command to be the next leader of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom), the Pentagon announced Wednesday.  

If confirmed by the Senate, Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton would oversee the command tasked with missile defense, strike capabilities, nuclear operations and running the Defense Department’s Global Information Grid, among other major tasks.   

A whirlwind: Cotton’s nomination comes less than a year after his previous nomination to head of Air Force Global Strike Command, which he took over in August 2021. 

Who is currently in charge: Stratcom, based out of Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is currently headed by Navy Adm. Charles “Chas” Richard, who has run the command since November 2019. 

A heavy role: Should he take over Stratcom, Cotton will have to contend with a volatile global landscape that includes Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, China’s rapid development of its missiles and nuclear capabilities, increasingly frequent North Korean missile and weapons tests, and a bellicose that Iran has an enriched uranium stockpile that grows by the week. 

A stacked resume: Cotton has long dealt with deterrence and nuclear operations while in the military. Prior to becoming deputy, then head of the global strike command, he commanded the 20th Air Force in Wyoming, responsible for maintaining and operating the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), according to his service bio.  

He also led the 341st Missile Wing, in charge of the Minuteman III ICBMs at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. 

 
In addition, Cotton has served as commander of the 45th Space Wing and as head of Air University. 

Read more here 

At least 4 dead after Marine Corps aircraft crashes

At least four people onboard a Marine Corps aircraft are dead after the helicopter crashed in southeast California on Wednesday, according to local reports.  

An aircraft belonging to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based out of San Diego, crashed about 30 miles north of the Mexican border, near Highway 78 and the town of Glamis, Naval Air Facility El Centro confirmed on its Facebook page.   

Limited details: Local firefighters, sheriff deputies and military personnel responded to the scene, in a remote area near the border with Arizona. 

The Los Angeles Times had been told by a federal source that there were five people aboard the helicopter, with four confirmed dead. 

Debunked: The Los Angeles Times also reported that emergency responder radio calls from the scene indicated there may have been nuclear materials onboard the helicopter. 

The Marine Corps later debunked those speculations, saying in a statement that “contrary to initial reports, there was no nuclear material on board the aircraft.” 

Read the full story here

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • RSA Security will hold its annual cyber conference beginning at 11:30 a.m.  
  • The Stimson Center will host a virtual discussion on “Arms Racing in Northeast Asia and Implications for the Korean Peninsula,” at 7 p.m.  

HOUSE 

  • The Armed Services subcommittee on Readiness will hold a markup for the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act at 8 a.m.  
  • The Armed Services subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces will hold a markup for the FY-23 NDAA at 9 a.m.  
  • The Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “Terrorism and Cryptocurrency: Industry Perspectives,” at 9 a.m. 
  • The Armed Services subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee  will hold a markup for the FY-23 NDAA at 10 a.m.  
  • The Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation will hold a hearing on “European Energy Security: America’s Role in Supporting Europe’s Energy Diversification Agenda,” at 10 a.m.  
  • The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold a hearing to review its findings at 8:00 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

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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