Overnight Defense: Pentagon seeks $2B over five years for Space Force | Trump says Warmbier comments 'misinterpreted' | GOP bristles at Trump plan to pay for wall

Overnight Defense: Pentagon seeks $2B over five years for Space Force | Trump says Warmbier comments 'misinterpreted' | GOP bristles at Trump plan to pay for wall
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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: The Trump administration's much ballyhooed Space Force plan is now officially in the hands of Congress, which will have final say over whether it's actually created.

The Pentagon announced Friday that it officially sent lawmakers its legislative proposal for the creation of Space Force as a new military branch under the control of the Department of the Air Force.


Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProgressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper House Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis MORE called the proposal a "historic moment for our nation" and "a strategic step towards securing America's vital national interests in space."

"Our approach follows President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE's bold vision for space and commits resources to deliver more capability faster, ensuring the United States can compete, deter, and, if needed, win in a complex domain," Shanahan said in a statement.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who rankled White House officials when she estimated that establishing a Space Force could cost $13 billion, said in a statement that the military "will continue to be the best in the world at space and establishing a dedicated space force strengthens our ability to deter, compete and win in space."

By the numbers: The Pentagon is projecting that Space Force will cost $2 billion over five years to stand up the service.

That includes $72.4 million the Pentagon plans to ask for in its fiscal 2020 budget request "for approximately 200 personnel to stand up the [U.S. Space Force] headquarters," according to a fact sheet for the legislative proposal.

Defense officials estimate that "about 15,000 military and civilian personnel could transfer to the Space Force," according to the summary.

Most of the personnel would initially come from the Air Force, "but soldiers, sailors and Marines also will be considered for transfer to the new force," the summary states.

Once fully established, the Pentagon expects the force to cost about $500 million annually to maintain, but the fact sheet notes that the estimate "will be refined through detailed planning."

Getting defensive: The fact sheet highlights that $2 billion is a small fraction of the overall defense budget, an apparent rebuttal to those questioning whether a new military branch is the most cost-effective way to improve space operations.

"Total additional cost growth over the next five years is estimated to be less than [$2 billion], or [.05 percent] of the DoD budget for the same period," the document states.

In addition, it says, about 95 percent of the Space Force's yearly budget "consists of existing resources that have been transferred" from the existing military services.

Reaction: There were not many statements from lawmakers on a typically muted Friday.

There was one key statement, though. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (R-Okla.), who has been skeptical of the idea, said he welcomed the proposal and pledged to review it.

"We've known for some time that China and Russia are increasing their investment and challenging our dominance in space," Inhofe said in his statement. "The threats are real, which is why I welcome the president's legislative proposal for creating the U.S. Space Force. In the coming days and weeks the committee and I will review the proposal and work with the administration to best address the threats with maximum efficiency and effectiveness."


CONTROVERSY OVER TRUMP'S WARMBIER COMMENTS: Trump on Friday addressed comments made a day prior, in which he seemed to release North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from any wrongdoing in the death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier.

Trump earlier this week appeared to defend Kim over Warmbier death, telling reporters that Kim "didn't know about" Warmbier's harsh captivity, adding that "I take him at his word."

But the president now says those comments were misinterpreted.

"I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family," Trump wrote on Twitter Friday. "Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death."

The background: Warmbier, a Cincinnati native and University of Virginia student, was arrested in January 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster while on a tour of Pyongyang. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor but later released to the United States in a vegetative state and died in June 2017.

During a Thursday press conference after meeting with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, Trump said that the North Korean leader was aware of Warmbier's case "but he knew it later."

"And, you know, you've got a lot of people. Big country. Lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people," Trump said. "And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really bad things."

The president had previously said that Warmbier was "tortured beyond belief" while in prison in North Korea.

Trump also took credit for Warmbier's release in 2017, which he touted again on Friday in his tweets.

"Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch," he wrote.

Trump faced bipartisan backlash for his apparent defense of the North Korean regime, which left Republican senators fuming.

Otto's parents push back: The parents of Warmbier earlier on Friday released a statement after Trump's initial comments in Vietnam.

"We have been respectful during this summit process," Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. "Now we must speak out."

"Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that," they said.


GOP BRISTLES AT USING MILITARY DOLLARS FOR WALL: As the Senate gets closer to taking up a resolution that would block Trump's national emergency declaration, The Hill's Jordain Carney took a look at how Republican senators are expressing concern at using military construction funds for the wall.

GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump MORE (Maine) told reporters to "keep in mind the irony" of the president deciding to take money away from military construction projects that were part of his previous budget requests.

"We had military leaders come before us and make the case for each of these projects as being vital to our national security and it seems to me very shortsighted and harmful to our national security … for that money to be used for other purposes," she said.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump Trump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (R-Tenn.), during a floor speech, also urged Trump to rethink his emergency declaration and reshuffle more money from the Pentagon's counter-drug accounts rather than military construction.

"Using funds already approved by Congress avoids taking money from military construction projects specifically approved by Congress for such activities as military barracks and hospitals," he said.

Senators say they are in the dark about where the administration will shuffle money from and if projects in their home states will, at least temporarily, be put on hold. The limbo status comes as the Senate is poised to vote on a resolution this month that would block Trump's emergency declaration.

Reminder: As part of an effort to pull together roughly $8 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, the administration plans to redirect $3.6 billion originally appropriated for military construction projects across the country.

The White House announced that along with an emergency declaration, Trump would reshuffle $2.5 billion from the Pentagon's drug-interdiction programs. But in a potential hurdle, defense officials say there is currently less than $80 million that could be used for the wall from that funding pot.


Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHouse Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary | Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry | Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior secretary MORE (D-N.M.) argued that the gap in funding means if the president wanted to reach the $8 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, that could result in taking more from military construction.

Senate math: To pass the resolution blocking the declaration, Democrats would need to flip four Republican senators. So far, three have said they will support the resolution and several from different factions of the caucus remain undecided and have voiced concerns about the administration's actions.

Asked how they would vote on the resolution of disapproval, both Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordEthics experts ask Senate to investigate Graham's probe of mail-in voting The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-Okla.) demurred, noting that they hadn't yet seen a detailed list indicating from where the White House plans to divert funds.



Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley will speak about "How the Army Will Fight in the Future" at 1 :30 p.m. at the Center for a New American Security. https://bit.ly/2NC9PCT



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