Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Harris concludes Asia trip with DMZ visit

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, holds binoculars at the military observation post as she visits the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Leah Millis/Pool Photo via AP)

Vice President Harris concluded her four-day trip to Asia on Thursday with a visit to the Demilitarized Zone as part of her trip to South Korea.  

We’ll recap the trip. Plus, North Korea launched ballistic missiles, and an aerospace company wants flexibility in the defense authorization bill.  

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.

Harris boosts South Korea in DMZ visit

Vice President Harris on Thursday visited the Demilitarized Zone as part of her trip to South Korea, hours before South Korea’s military reported that North Korea fired another ballistic missile. 

Harris’s visit was the last stop on her four-day trip to Asia and she stressed the ironclad commitment the U.S. has to South Korea. 

Harris at the DMZ: Harris used binoculars to look toward North Korea as she was briefed on the area, including how communication happens between both sides at the DMZ. 

  • She asked briefers on the ground a few questions, including about the process for preparing for high-level talks and the average delayed response from the other side. She was told some responses on routine items take as little as
    30 minutes.
  • She was also told about the two villages that fall within the DMZ. The vice president asked for the population of the villages and when the briefer responded, she laughed and said, “When’s the last time you took a census? Babies get born, things change.” 

Recapping the Asia trip: Harris arrived in Japan on Monday for the start of her trip to Asia.  

While in Japan, she led a presidential delegation to attend the funeral of late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. She also met with current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.  

In South Korea, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.  

Read the full story here.  

North Korea launches ballistic missiles 

North Korea on Thursday fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, just hours after Vice President Harris departed South Korea for the United States.  

The launch, the third one this week, comes as North Korea is suspected to be prepping for its seventh nuclear test. 

“South Korean military detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from Sunchon, South Pyongan province, toward the east coast between 8:48 p.m. and 8:57 p.m.,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, as Reuters reported.  

“Amid strengthened surveillance and vigilance, our military maintains full preparedness while working closely with the U.S.”  

Read more here.  

Exclusive: Group wants flexibility in defense bill

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is asking the Senate Armed Services Committee to include language in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act allowing the Pentagon to modify its contracts amid record inflation.  

In a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) the group says that inflation and “turmoil in global supply chains” are threatening the defense industry’s ability to meet its demand.  

“While all parts of our economy are being affected, we are confident that potential damage to our national security is something that your committee recognizes and can address. In that spirit, we urge you to provide DoD with this vital contracting flexibility in the FY23 NDAA,” reads the letter, obtained exclusively by The Hill.  

The heart of the problem: In the letter, AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning writes that most Pentagon contracts were negotiated on the assumption of a 2 to 3 percent annual inflation and properly functioning global supply chains.    

Given higher inflation and other supply chain and workforce disruptions, businesses can face delays, cost increases, and a “significant exodus of workforce talent,” among other consequences, the letter stated. 

“Rather than continuing to do business with DoD and lose money, many companies will choose to leave the DIB [defense industrial base]entirely and focus on the commercial market, where they can more readily pass along increased costs. This directly threatens our national security: our advanced technologies and capabilities will dwindle, competition will significantly decline, and the innovation America needs to stay ahead of our global competitors could evaporate,” Fanning wrote.  

Quick state-of-play: The letter comes as the Senate is expected to take up its version of the annual defense policy bill next month. The committee passed the bill on a bipartisan 23-3 vote.  

The Senate bill already includes language requiring a report on the impacts of inflation on the military and defense industrial base.  

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “Global China: US-China relations through the lens of technology competition” at 9 a.m. 
  • The Atlantic Council will hold a conversation with Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly at 3 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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