Overnight Defense: Nauert tapped for UN envoy | Trump teases changes to Joint Chiefs of Staff | Trump knocks Tillerson as 'dumb as a rock' | Scathing report details Air Force failures before Texas shooting

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. We're Rebecca Kheel and 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: Weeks of speculation about who the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations will be ended Friday with 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 officially announcing his pick.

Trump chose State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to fill the roll being vacated by Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyState Dept halts cooperation with UN probes into potential US human rights violations: report The Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Nikki Haley: No member of Congress should be paid during shutdown MORE at the end of the year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nauert was reported to be the top choice weeks ago, but when Trump did not announce her, speculation moved to other contenders.

As U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nauert would be a key figure in promoting and defending the Trump administration's foreign policy on the international stage.

Rising star: Just a couple years ago, Nauert was an anchor on Fox News.

She was brought into the State Department by former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump concealed details of meetings with Putin from senior officials: report Forget the border wall, a coup in Guatemala is the real emergency Tweets, confirmations and rallies: Trump's year in numbers MORE and kept in the spokeswoman role by current Secretary Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTop North Korean official to meet with Trump this week: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi asks Trump to postpone State of the Union | US troops killed in Syria blast | Day 2 of Barr confirmation US calls China's death sentence for Canadian man 'politically motivated' MORE.

She was also the acting under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs for a few months earlier this year, an early sign that her star was rising in the Trump administration.

Confirmation watch: Nauert will still have to be confirmed by the Senate before heading to New York.

Her relative lack of diplomatic experience could be a sticking point for Democrats.

On CNN on Thursday night, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party Dem senator jokes about holding drinking game for Trump's primetime address MORE (D-Conn.) said she has "no meaningful experience."

"She is clearly not qualified for this job, but these days it seems that the most important qualification is that you show up on Donald Trump's TV screen, and if you're successful in that endeavor, then you seem to be a top candidate to get a whole bunch of top positions in the U.S. government," he said.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoAG pick Barr emphasizes independence from Trump Hirono says she can't trust Trump on shutdown talks: 'His word is not good' Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing MORE (D-Hawaii) similarly expressed concern about her experience.

"I would have difficulty because there are those of us that care about people's experience and qualifications," Hirono said on CNN. "I do not know that being loyal to the president is the uppermost qualification. It is for the president, but it isn't for me."

In a statement, Senate Foreign Relations member Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days MORE (D-N.H.) said she looks forward to meeting with Nauert "to discuss her record at the State Department."

"I also look forward to asking questions during her confirmation hearing on how she will ensure that this administration better utilize the United Nations to pursue critical U.S. interests around security, human rights and global prosperity," Shaheen added.

Republicans, though, are praising the pick.

"I've known Heather for many years. She was an effective spokeswoman for the Department of State and enjoys the confidence of Secretary Pompeo and President Trump," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release White House condemns 'terror attack' that killed US troops in Syria MORE (R-S.C.) said in a statement.

"I'm sure she will perform well at her hearing and look forward to supporting her nomination," he added.

 

NEW JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN?: President Trump caught the defense world off guard Friday when he said that he will make an announcement regarding the Joint Chiefs of Staff during this weekend's Army-Navy football game.

While making a series of major personnel announcements on the White House lawn, including new picks for attorney general and United Nations ambassador, Trump cryptically told reporters that "I have another one for tomorrow."

"I'm going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game. I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession," he said.

Trump is set to attend the coin toss at the annual game between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

Milley next in line?: The comment set off speculation over who could be named to what position, as all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are set to reach the end of their terms in quick succession starting next summer.

Administration officials told The New York Times that Trump is expected to name Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman.

Current Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford's second term will end in the summer of 2019, as will Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva's.

Former President Obama nominated Dunford and Selva to the two-year term positions in 2015, and Trump re-upped them for their second terms last year.  

Milley, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Naval Chief of Operations Adm. John Richardson will all reach the end of their terms next year.

 

AIR FORCE FAILURES ON TEXAS SHOOTING: The Air Force had six chances to notify the FBI about the man who would go on to shoot and kill 26 people in a Texas church last year and failed to do so each time, according to an inspector general report.

There were four times when the Air Force should have submitted to the FBI the fingerprints of Devin Patrick Kelley, who was convicted in a court-martial of assault. The Air Force also should have submitted a report to the FBI on two occasions on Kelley's final disposition.

"If Kelley's fingerprints were submitted to the FBI, he would have been prohibited from purchasing a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer," the Pentagon inspector general said in a 131-page report released Friday.

"Because his fingerprints were not submitted to the FBI [Criminal Justice Information Services] Division, Kelley was able to purchase firearms, which he used to kill 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017."

The report concluded that there was "no valid reason" for the Air Force's failures.

What happened: Kelley's 2012 conviction in a court-martial should have prevented him from buying a gun in a store.

But because the Air Force did not give the FBI his fingerprints, he passed a federally mandated background check and bought four firearms at federally licensed dealers, the inspector general said.

Three of those firearms were used in the Texas church shooting, which also wounded 22 people, the report said.

The inspector general concluded the fingerprints were not submitted in part because investigators were unclear on or unaware of the requirement. In other instances, investigators did not give the inspector general "a clear, supportable reason or explanation" why the fingerprints weren't submitted.

"The investigators and confinement personnel had a duty to know, and should have known, the [Department of Defense] and [Air Force] fingerprint policies, and should have followed them," the report said. "The failures had drastic consequences and should not have occurred."

Recommendations: The report makes several recommendations, including implementing a background check system during recruiting since Kelley was also found to have been accused of criminal activity before entering the Air Force.

Other recommendations include reviewing the training program on submitting final disposition reports, pursuing legislation to include the military's versions of restraining orders in the factors that disqualify someone from owning a gun and reviewing the conduct of personnel described in the report for possible administration or disciplinary action.

 

TRUMP, TILLERSON FEUD: President Trump fired back at Rex Tillerson after his former secretary of State called the president undisciplined, unread and willing to break the law.

"Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn't have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn't get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!" Trump tweeted.

Trump's extraordinary attack on his former top diplomat came one day after Tillerson offered a blistering criticism of his ex-boss, one of the clearest signs of the strained relationship between the two men.

"So often, the president would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, 'Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way. It violates the law,'" Tillerson said at a fundraising event in Houston.

More on the fight here.

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

The U.S. Institute of Peace will host a discussion about the Institute for Economics and Peace's sixth annual Global Terrorism Index at 10:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/2UtS8sf

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Inhofe tells military crowd: 'Don't trust the media'

-- The Hill: Senate edges closer to rebuking Trump on Saudi Arabia

-- The Hill: John Kelly expected to resign in coming days: CNN

-- The Hill: Illegal border crossings plateau in November

-- Stars and Stripes: Marine pilot from South Florida killed in fighter jet-tanker collision off Japan coast

-- Associated Press: Ukraine says will send naval ships through Kerch Strait soon