Overnight Defense: Mattis officially approves troops for border | Number to be deployed unclear | Key official confirms plan to trim defense budget | Putin invited to DC next year

Overnight Defense: Mattis officially approves troops for border | Number to be deployed unclear | Key official confirms plan to trim defense budget | Putin invited to DC next year

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, 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: Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisJohn Feehery: Mutiny on the Bounty Amash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq Defense chief says US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq MORE has officially signed off on sending U.S. troops to the southern border, but some details remain fuzzy.

The Pentagon on Friday afternoon released a statement saying Mattis approved a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.


"After receiving a request for assistance from the secretary of homeland security, the secretary of defense has approved providing mission-enhancing capabilities to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southwest border," the statement said.

How many, who and what: The statement did not specify how many troops will be sent to the border despite earlier reports saying Mattis was set to authorize a deployment of up to 800 service members.

U.S. Northern Command will take the lead for the military for the operation, the statement said.

The military will help Customs and Border Patrol with planning, engineering such as fencing and other barriers, aircraft to move CBP personnel, medical treatment for migrants, command and control, housing for CBP and protective equipment for border patrolmen.

The assistance announced Friday is on top of the previous deployment of 2,100 National Guardsmen to the border, the statement added.

Background: Trump has been sounding the alarm about a so-called migrant caravan heading to the United States since last week, repeatedly raising the prospect of sending the military to stop the asylum seekers.

But until Thursday, the Pentagon said it hadn't officially received any new orders.

Reports emerged Thursday that Mattis's order was imminent. A Pentagon statement said that day it was anticipating the official request from DHS shortly.

The U.S. military is barred by statute from enforcing U.S. laws, including immigration laws, while on U.S. soil.

The National Guardsmen that are near the border now have been working in a support capacity away from any immigrants.


SNIP, SNIP: The Pentagon has had a couple boom years in terms of its budget, but the administration is now eying a trim for next year.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan confirmed Friday the department has been asked to plan for a $700 billion national defense budget for fiscal year 2020.

That's a cut from the $716 billion defense budget for this fiscal year -- and $33 billion less than the administration originally planned for fiscal 2020.

"Imagine we've been going through this very disciplined process for the whole year to build a budget that's $733 billion, and then last week, we were directed, build us a $700 billion budget," Shanahan said at the Military Reporters and Editors Associations conference.

The national defense budget encompasses both Pentagon and non-Pentagon defense items such as the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs.

That clears that up: Trump first floated a budget cut last week, saying he is asking every Cabinet head for a 5 percent cut next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2019.

At the time it was unclear what that would mean for defense. Asked about the Pentagon, Trump said last week that the budget "will probably be $700 billion." That would be an increase from $686.1 billion if he was referring solely to the Pentagon budget, or a 2.2 percent decrease if he was referring to the entire national defense budget.

Not a waste of time: The Pentagon was already close to finalizing a budget in line with $733 billion figure when Trump asked for the cut.

To ensure that work wasn't for naught, Shanahan said the Pentagon's comptroller will now just submit two budget documents: the original plan and the new plan.

The two proposals will allow Defense Secretary James Mattis to see the "trade offs," Shanahan said.

Hawks not happy: Congress is ultimately the body that sets spending numbers, and what the defense budget ends up being likely depends on who controls Congress after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Defense hawks on Capitol Hill have acknowledged continued budget hikes could be a heavy political lift depending on the results of the elections, but they have said the budget needs to remain steady to maintain progress on addressing readiness issues.

The conservative Heritage Foundation -- whose defense spending plans Trump has largely followed up to this point -- said the president's decision to cut the defense budget is a "serious mistake."

"America needs to be as serious about investing in our military as our enemies are invested in theirs," Heritage's Thomas Spoehr said in a Friday news release. "Today's announcement is yet more evidence that the United States does not possess that same seriousness."


PENCIL IT IN: In addition to plans for Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet Nov. 11 in Paris, national security advisor John Bolton said Friday that Putin has been invited to visit Washington next year.

"We have invited President Putin to Washington after the first of the year for, basically, a full day of consultations," Bolton said at a press conference in Georgia. "What the scheduling of that is we don't quite know yet."

Standing invite: Trump over the summer asked Bolton to invite Putin to Washington following their summit meeting in Helsinki, which the president dubbed a "great success" despite widespread criticism.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that the president requested the meeting "in the fall" but Bolton's latest comments suggest that timeframe is being pushed back.


SAUDI COMPLICATIONS: Congress has been pushing for Trump to take a harder line against the Saudis after the killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But there's one major factor that could dial down the congressional pressure: Trump critic and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerVulnerable senators hold the key to Trump's fate Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy MORE (R-Tenn.) is retiring soon.

In his place is likely to be Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: Trump's Syria envoy wasn't consulted on withdrawal | McConnell offers resolution urging Trump to rethink Syria | Diplomat says Ukraine aid was tied to political investigations Partisan squabbles endanger congressional response to Trump's course on Syria Senate votes for North Macedonia to join NATO MORE (R-Idaho), who has been much more inclined to defer to the president.

The Hill's Alexander Bolton took at look here at what Corker's retirement will mean for the U.S. response to the Khashoggi crisis.



The Heritage Foundation will host an expert panel on raising human rights issues in North Korea negotiations at 10 a.m. https://herit.ag/2PUJ0tW

The Council on Foreign Relations will host a discussion on foreign policy and the midterm elections at 12:30 p.m. https://on.cfr.org/2JiNfNe



-- The Hill: Erdogan presses Saudi Arabia to reveal who gave order to kill Khashoggi

-- The Hill: Khashoggi fiancée turns down invite from Trump to visit White House

-- The Hill: Facebook finds evidence of Iranian disinformation campaign

-- Stars and Stripes: Navy successfully tests ballistic missile intercept system

-- The New York Times: The tragedy of Saudi Arabia's war

-- Associated Press: Turkey seeks extradition of suspects in Khashoggi killing