Overnight Defense: Trump signs $717B defense policy bill into law | Rips McCain hours after signing bill named after him | Green Beret killed in Afghanistan blast

Overnight Defense: Trump signs $717B defense policy bill into law | Rips McCain hours after signing bill named after him | Green Beret killed in Afghanistan blast

THE TOPLINE: This year's $717 billion annual defense policy bill is officially law.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE signed the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law during a visit to Fort Drum, N.Y.

With Trump's signature, the bill is becoming law before the start of the fiscal year for the first time in more than 20 years and the earliest time in the year in more than four decades.

The NDAA authorizes about $639 billion for the base budget of the Pentagon and defense programs of the Energy Department. It also allows for another $69 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

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In signing the bill, which accomplishes many of the administration's military buildup goals, Trump took credit for the massive budget boost.

"The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military and our warfighters in modern history, and I am very proud to be a big, big part of it," Trump said in his speech.

"It was not very hard. You know, I went to Congress, I said let's do it, we got to do it. We're going to strengthen our military like never, ever before, and that's what we did," he said.

 

What's next: With the NDAA signed into law, Congress now turns its attention to passing a defense spending bill to make the dollar amounts authorized by the NDAA a reality. The House passed a Pentagon spending bill in June, while the Senate is expected to start considering its version as soon as this week.

Even as they were celebrating Trump's signature on the bill, leaders of the Armed Services committees were stressing the need for a matching appropriations bill.

"It is now essential that we follow this bill with matching appropriations before the beginning of the fiscal year," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement.

"This is the earliest that the NDAA will have been signed into law in more than 40 years, but that historical significance will be lost if we fail to pass appropriations to match the authorization enacted today," senior Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePentagon releases report on sexual assault risk Trump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Okla.) said in his own statement. "Our military deserves consistent, stable funding and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that we pass a defense appropriations bill before the end of the fiscal year."

 

THE MCCAIN CONNECTION: This year's NDAA is named for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCongress must use bipartisan oversight as the gold standard The Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward Trump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote MORE (R-Ariz.), who was unable to shepherd the bill through Congress this year as he remains at home receiving treatment for brain cancer.

Trump and McCain have clashed frequently in the past over issues ranging from Trump's rapprochement with Russia to McCain's no vote on last year's healthcare bill. During the presidential campaign, Trump also said McCain was not a war hero for being a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

On Monday, Trump made no mention of the bill's namesake during the signing ceremony. That led former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryRubio wants DOJ to find out if Kerry broke law by meeting with Iranians Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Pompeo doubles down on criticism of Kerry: The Iran deal failed, 'let it go' MORE (D) to call it "disgraceful" that Trump ignored McCain.

"Disgraceful - but nothing will erase for an instant the legacy John McCain has written and is still writing every day," Kerry tweeted after Trump concluded his remarks.

On CNN, host Jake Tapper also took a moment to thank McCain because Trump "would not do it."

"Since President Trump would not do it, let us here on 'The Lead' congratulate Sen. John McCain and his family, and thank him for his service to the country," he said.

Tapper led his show with a montage of Trump thanking other military officials and lawmakers.

 

But later...: Hours after signing the bill, Trump ripped McCain at a New York fundraising event.

Trump sarcastically referred to McCain as "one of our wonderful senators," and referenced his key vote against a proposed repeal of ObamaCare.

"ObamaCare, we got rid of the individual mandate, which is the most unpopular aspect," Trump said. "I would've gotten rid of everything, but as you know, one of our wonderful senators said 'thumbs down' at 2 o'clock in the morning."

The comment prompted a small chorus of boos from the audience.

 

TRUMP TOUTS SPACE FORCE: Trump also used the Fort Drum speech to articulate why he wants a Space Force in his most detailed remarks to date.

He largely echoed arguments made by those who have long supported creating a new military branch for space, namely that countries such as China are already weaponizing the domain.

"China even launched a new military division to oversee its war-fighting programs in space," Trump said.

"Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a war-fighting domain. It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space," he continued, echoing a line he first used when he announced he was ordering the creation of a Space Force in June.

 

Mattis defends reversal: Mattis famously opposed the House's efforts last year to create a new military branch dedicated to space.

But he's voiced support now for Trump's proposal. Speaking to reporters Sunday en route to Brazil, Mattis defended the switch.

"I was not going against setting up a Space Force; what I was against was rushing to do that before we define those problems," Mattis said. "We've had a year, over a year in defining. And the orbitization of this solution in terms of institutionalizing forward momentum is very important."

 

MORE SPACE!: This past weekend, your Overnight Defense correspondent was down in Florida for NASA's launch of the Parker Solar Probe, which was shot into space by defense contractor United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket.

The mission was launched in the wee hours of Sunday morning after Saturday's originally scheduled launch was scrubbed.

If you missed it, read more about the launch of the first ever probe to the sun here.

 

GREEN BERET KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: A U.S. soldier died Sunday days after an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Monday.

The Pentagon identified the soldier as Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, of Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Transfiguracion died of "wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near him while he was conducting combat patrol operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The explosion happened Aug. 7, according to the Army.

Transfiguracion was born in the Philippines and enlisted in the Hawaii National Guard in 2001. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class, the Army said.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, according to the Pentagon statement.

 

Elsewhere in Afghanistan: U.S. and Afghan forces have been battling the Taliban in the key provincial capital of Ghazni following a multipronged Taliban assault on the city that started Friday.

The U.S. military has downplayed the Taliban siege, with a spokesman saying Ghazni city remains under Afghan government control and that "isolated and disparate" Taliban forces are in the process of being cleared.

Reports out of Afghanistan have said that while the government remains in control of government buildings, the Taliban appears to be in control of most neighborhoods. Additionally, about 100 Afghan forces and 20 civilians have been reported killed.

 

Strategy working?: This all comes as Trump's strategy to turn the 17-year-old war around approaches its one-year anniversary.

Last August, Trump announced he was taking away a timeline for withdrawal and sending thousands more troops to the country in an effort to end a stalemate in the war.

The United States now has about 16,000 troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Pentagon officials have claimed Trump's strategy is working in its effort to force the Taliban to the negotiating table.

"No doubt, the strategy has confronted the Taliban with a reason to go to ceasefires that [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani has led and offered and to go into discussions," Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria Bolton: Russian missile system sale to Syria a 'significant escalation' Overnight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' MORE told reporters last week. "But it is still early in that reconciliation process."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

U.K. Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, deputy commander of strategy and support for Operation Inherent Resolve, and U.S. Army Col. Sean Ryan, Inherent Resolve spokesman, brief the media at 11 a.m. Watch live at defense.gov/live

 

ICYMI

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-- Associated Press: Taliban offensive exposes fragile US hopes for Afghan peace

-- The Washington Post: U.S. general urges Saudi Arabia to investigate airstrike that killed dozens of children in Yemen

-- The New York Times: The Iraqi spy who infiltrated ISIS