Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Shutdown fight hits State of the Union | Coast Guard chief calls shutdown fallout for service members ‘unacceptable’ | Russia shows off missile at center of treaty dispute

Happy Wednesday 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: It’s day 33 of the partial government shutdown, and the related standoff over the State of the Union address is coming to a head.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told President Trump she will block him from delivering the annual speech in the House chamber until the government reopens.

{mosads}In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said she would not move forward with the legislative steps needed for the address to take place.

“The House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened,” she wrote.

By refusing to schedule a vote on the resolution, Pelosi is preventing Congress from meeting in a joint session for the purpose of hearing Trump’s address.

Earlier: Pelosi’s letter came hours after Trump essentially dared her to cancel the speech.

In his own letter responding to one she wrote earlier in January, Trump wrote that he planned to go ahead with giving the speech in the House on Jan. 29 because national security officials informed him there are “no security concerns regarding the State of the Union address.”

“It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” Trump wrote.

After Pelosi’s latest letter, Trump called Pelosi’s decision “a great, great horrible mark” for the country.

“Nancy Pelosi — or Nancy, as I call her — she doesn’t want to hear the truth,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

What now: Trump also said he may do an “alternative” State of the Union after Pelosi’s move.

“We’ll do something in the alternative,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

He provided no further details about such an event but said they would be revealed “at a later date.”

In the Coast Guard: Coast Guard civilians, along with other federal employees, are on track not to get their paychecks Friday — the second time this shutdown.

And Coast Guard service members would also miss their second paycheck of the shutdown next week.

As the showdown drags on and the financial burden on the service increases, the Coast Guard commandant is speaking increasingly bluntly.

In a message posted online Tuesday night, Adm. Karl Schultz called it “unacceptable” that Coast Guard members have had to turn to food pantries and donations during the ongoing government shutdown.

But Schultz also said he is “heartened” by an “outpouring of support from local communities across the nation.”

The Navy also gave its fellow sailors in the Coast Guard its support Wednesday.

“The brave Coast #Guardsmen on our sea service team keep America’s waters safe, deploy with our carrier strike groups around the world and are forward-deployed in maritime theaters of war supporting maritime security and counter-piracy,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson tweeted.

“To our Coasties, thank you for your continued service. America can rest easy knowing you are standing the watch. #SemperParatus,” Richardson added in a second tweet.


GREEN BERET KIA IDENTIFIED: The Defense Department on Wednesday identified the U.S. soldier who was killed a day prior while fighting in Afghanistan.

Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Joshua Z. Beale, 32, of Carrollton, Va., died on Tuesday “as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan,” according to a Pentagon news release.

Beale was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C., and was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Background: He is the second U.S. service member to die in the country this year.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority of which train, advise and assist Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban – now in its 18th year. U.S. Specials Operations Forces also conduct counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Reports emerged last month saying Trump is expected to drastically cut the number of troops deployed there, but no decision has yet been made.


RUSSIA DISPLAYS DISPUTED MISSILE: As the United States’ self-imposed deadline on withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) nears, Russia is stepping up its public campaign to push back on Washington’s claims.

Moscow showed the missile that Washington says violates the treaty to a group of foreign military attaches and reporters Wednesday.

Russian Lt. Gen. Mikhail Matveevsky told the group that the 9M729 land-based cruise missile has a maximum range of 480 kilometers, or 20 kilometers less than what’s banned by the INF Treaty.

Background: The 1987 INF Treaty bans ground-launched nuclear and conventional cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The United States holds that Russia’s 9M729 violates the treaty by falling within the banned range. The Trump administration has said it will suspend the United States’ compliance with the treaty Feb. 2 if Moscow does not come back into compliance.

{mossecondads}Russia has offered to let the United States see the disputed missile, but the Trump administration has rejected that offer as inadequate.

“To see the missile does not confirm the distance that missile can travel, and at the end of the day that’s the violation of the treaty,” under secretary of State for arms control and international security Andrea Thompson told reporters last week after talks with the Russians.



The House Armed Services Committee will have its organizational meeting for the 116th Congress at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://bit.ly/2MpSBI2 



— The Hill: Dem senator says Trump’s Syria withdrawal is leading Kurds ‘to a slaughter’

— The Hill: House passes bill expressing support for NATO

— The Hill: Opinion: Restore pay for Coast Guard, part of real wall against drug trafficking

— USA Today: Kim Jong Un expresses ‘great satisfaction’ with letter from Donald Trump

— Military Times: Women in the military draft or dump the system altogether? New report looks at radical options

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