Overnight Defense: Pentagon asked to prep housing for up to 20K migrant children | Senators move to block F-35 transfer to Turkey | Trump Mar-a-Lago trips cost Coast Guard $20M

Overnight Defense: Pentagon asked to prep housing for up to 20K migrant children | Senators move to block F-35 transfer to Turkey | Trump Mar-a-Lago trips cost Coast Guard $20M
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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.


THE TOPLINE: The Pentagon is being pulled into the controversy over the Trump administration's policies for migrants being caught crossing the border. On Thursday, the Pentagon said it had been asked to look into placing 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases starting as early as next month.

According to a new Pentagon memo sent to lawmakers on Wednesday, the Defense Department received a request for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"HHS has requested DOD determine its capabilities to provide up to 20,000 temporary beds for unaccompanied children at DOD installations," according to the document, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

What the memo says: If the Pentagon finds that it can provide such lodging, "the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) requests the facilities be available for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018."

HHS personnel or contractors would run the sites, providing care to the children, "including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs," the memo states.

The Defense Department "would be fully reimbursed" for all expenses as stipulated by the Economy Act, the document adds. 

The Pentagon's response: The Pentagon on Thursday acknowledged it had received the request for assistance and "HHS and DOD are working closely to determine the requirements and timing for support," according to spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden under pressure to remove Trump transgender military ban quickly Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper MORE on Wednesday said the military would house immigrant children if asked by the administration. 

"We'll see what they come in with. We support DHS, and right now this is their lead, and we'll respond if requested," Mattis told reporters outside the Pentagon.

Pressed on the issue, Mattis listed other situations when the military has housed people in need.

"We have housed refugees," he said. "We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country."

Where the children would be housedHHS officials in May targeted four military bases to visit determine whether they were suitable to house minors separated from their families.

Three of the bases visited are in Texas – Army base Fort Bliss; Dyess Air Force Base, near Abilene; and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo – and one is in Arkansas, Little Rock Air Force Base.

"While four bases (three in Texas and one in Arkansas) have been visited by HHS for possible housing, it doesn't mean any or all children would be housed there," Davis said in his statement.

The order that started thisPresident Trump bowed to intense bipartisan pressure Wednesday and signed an executive order intended to end the practice of separating families who cross the border illegally.

The order, among other things, asks the Pentagon to provide facilities to house families.


SENATE MOVES TO BLOCK F-35 TRANSFERS TO TURKEY: Senators on Thursday sought to prevent Turkey from receiving the first of dozens of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even as aerospace giant Lockheed Martin held a ceremony the same day to transfer the aircraft to Ankara.  

Senate appropriators inserted an amendment into the chamber's appropriations bill for State Department and foreign aid that would halt the transfer of F-35s to Turkey unless the NATO ally cancels its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 long-range air and anti-missile defense system.

The issue with the transfer: The United States and its NATO allies have expressed concerns for months over Turkey's December agreement to buy the S-400, which is not interoperable with other NATO and U.S. military equipment. There are also fears that if the S-400 is used with the Turkish F-35, Russia may gain access to the aircraft's technical data.

"The concern is that the F-35 is the most advanced aircraft, the most advanced NATO aircraft, and if Turkey goes forward with the acquisition of the S-400, it will allow the Russians to collect information on how to best attack an F-35 fighter," the amendment's co-sponsor, Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.), told CNN.

But the ceremony goes on: Despite the moves in Congress, Lockheed Martin went ahead with the F-35 transfer ceremony, attended by company executives, Turkish defense officials and Pentagon officials, including representatives from the F-35 joint program office.

At the event, the Turkish officials stressed that F-35s would be used in support of NATO.

Turkish Maj. Gen. Reha Ufuk Er said that Turkey's F-35s are "a great asset to thwart future threats," which will contribute to global stability and "significantly augment" NATO air capabilities.

And Turkey's deputy undersecretary of defense industries, Serdar Demirel, said that the F-35 would help the nation "strengthen the deterrence of NATO."


TRUMP MAR-A-LAGO TRIPS COST $20M FOR COAST GUARD PROTECTION: Trump's trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate have cost taxpayers nearly $20 million for Coast Guard protection since he took office, USA Today reported.

Records obtained by the newspaper show more than $1 million for Coast Guard protection alone was shelled out for each of Trump's trips to the Florida property.

The president has spent 69 days of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago, according to a NBC News tracker.

What the Coast Guard covers: The Coast Guard records cover all of Trump's trips to the estate, with the exception of his visit there last year with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The estate and private club are both located on a piece of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, both of which require patrols.

The Coast Guard issues 29-foot rubber boats and 87-foot patrol boats with .50 caliber machine guns, as well as a rescue helicopter near the property that costs roughly $8,000 per flight-hour.

Coast Guard members have spent more than 4,200 hours on protective duty near the estate from April 2017 to March 2018.



The House Armed Services subommittee will hold a hearing on space situational awareness with testimony from Secretary of Commerce Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossSupreme Court to hear arguments on Trump administration's attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from census Central Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention Census Bureau can't meet Trump's deadline for data on undocumented immigrants: report MORE, NASA Administrator Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineWhat should Biden do with NASA and the Artemis Program? The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden increases Electoral College win The Hill's Morning Report - Trump battles ballots; vaccine news boosts markets MORE, and U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten, at 9 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118.  



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