Overnight Defense: Trump approves new counterterrorism strategy | Mattis calls Russian arms treaty violations 'untenable' | Trump may fire Air Force chief over Space Force, report says

Overnight Defense: Trump approves new counterterrorism strategy | Mattis calls Russian arms treaty violations 'untenable' | Trump may fire Air Force chief over Space Force, report says

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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: The Trump administration on Thursday rolled out what it billed as a "robust" counterterrorism strategy, saying that it differs from the previous administration's by focusing on "terrorist ideology."

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"We recognize that there is a terrorist ideology that we're confronting," national security adviser John Bolton said. "And I think it's long been the president's view that without recognizing that we're in an ideological struggle that we can't properly address the terrorist threat. I think in that sense this is much broader than strategies in the previous administration."

Bolton unveiled the strategy in a briefing with reporters, saying it is meant to address the "increasingly complex and evolving terrorist threat" to the United States.

The strategy: The plan is the first blueprint for defeating international terrorist groups and homegrown threats since the approach rolled out by the Obama administration in 2011. It "will help protect our great Nation, enhance our national security, and guide our continued effort to defeat terrorists and terrorist organizations that threaten the United States," according to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE.

The strategy focuses on pursuing terrorists to their source, isolating them from their support systems, and integrating and modernizing tools to combat terrorism. It also calls for strong borders and securing ports of entry, increased emphasis on "non-kinetic means" of defeating terrorism and the use of traditional military power.

Bolton's take: Bolton framed the fight as an ideological war, and he cited Jordan's King Abdullah, who described terrorism as a "civil war" within Islam.

"The fact is the radical Islamic threat that we face is a form of ideology," Bolton said. "This should not be anything new to anybody."

Bolton argued that the administration has already made gains against terrorist groups and taken more aggressive action than the Obama administration.

"We have accelerated efforts to defeat terrorists who pose significant threats to the United States," Bolton said. "The president has already moved out aggressively."

But how much will it cost?: The cost is still to be determined, as the document is only a strategy. Bolton said the blueprint it does not list specific resources needed, but it will inform the fiscal 2020 budget proposal.

 

MATTIS; RUSSIAN VIOLATION OF ARMS CONTROL TREATY 'UNTENABLE': Russia's "blatant violation" of a landmark arms control treaty is "untenable," Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFox's Griffin: Was told by diplomat that Syria attack was 'direct result' of US pullout decision GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE said Thursday, adding that the Trump administration is considering diplomatic and military responses.

"Make no mistake, the current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable, and we discussed the situation at length during this ministerial meeting among trusted allies," Mattis said at a press conference following a NATO defense ministerial in Brussels.

"The United States is upholding its arms control obligations, Russia is not, and it is time now for Russia to return to compliance," Mattis added.

What's the problem: At issue is the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The treaty is credited with helping end the Cold War.

The United States first accused Russia of violating the treaty in 2014. The U.S. and NATO say Russia's 9M729 system violates the treaty.

Moscow denies it is violating the treaty. Rather, it says, the U.S. is in violation by deploying missile defenses to Europe. U.S. officials dismiss that argument, saying the systems are purely defensive and not covered under the treaty.

And tensions with Russia keep growing: Mattis's comments come after U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison warned the Trump administration could "take out" Russian missiles if Moscow continues to violate the treaty.

After the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a furious response to Hutchison, she tweeted that she "was not talking about preemptively striking Russia."

At Congress's direction, the Trump administration announced in December it was researching a missile that would violate the treaty. The research itself is not a violation.

 

TRUMP CONSIDERING OUSTING AIR FORCE CHIEF OVER SPACE FORCE? Trump is considering firing the secretary of the Air Force after the midterm elections over her handling of his proposed Space Force, according to a report Thursday.

Citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, Foreign Policy reported that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has angered Trump and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan with a perceived campaign to undermine Trump's order to stand up the new military branch.

No final decisions have been made about Wilson, according to Foreign Policy, but a source told the publication the administration has been exploring options to replace her. One name floated as a replacement was Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersEarmarks look to be making a comeback Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal CIA's ‘surveillance state’ is operating against us all MORE (R-Ala.), who has been a key backer of Space Force on Capitol Hill.

The background: Trump ordered the Pentagon in June to begin planning to stand up a Space Force and in an August speech at the Pentagon, Vice President Pence outlined the steps the administration is taking to carry that out. Shanahan is the Pentagon official that has been tasked with overseeing the effort.

Wilson opposed the idea of a separate branch of the military for space when Congress proposed a similar plan last year.

But since Trump's push on Space Force, Wilson has refrained from criticizing the proposal, saying last month that she is in "complete alignment" with the president.

The tipping point? That same day, a widely leaked memo from Wilson estimated that it could cost $13 billion to stand up Space Force in its first five years. The memo also estimated the service would need about 13,000 new personnel.

One top defense budget expert called the memo "an example of malicious compliance."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Adm. James Foggo will discuss Russian aggressiveness and a resurgent Russian navy at the Transatlantic Alliance for the Atlantic Council at 9 a.m. at The Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. ht

Commander of Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller and Deputy Commandant for Marine Corps Aviation Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder will speak on naval aviation and readiness recovery for combat at 10 a.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: US service member killed in Afghanistan

-- The Hill: Treasury targets firms with ties to North Korea, Hezbollah

-- The Hill: US mulls show of force amid tensions with China: report

-- The Hill: Russia accused of attempting cybercrime against chemical weapons watchdog

-- The Hill: UK finds Russian military intelligence behind cyber attacks

-- The Hill: Senate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS

-- The Hill: Opinion: General Electric's version of accountability should be used in Afghanistan

-- The Hill: Opinion: Staying in Syria is a good way to get into a bad war with Iran

-- Defense News: Missile Defense Review complete, Shanahan says