Overnight Defense: Air Force general tapped for Pentagon No. 2 | Dem presses Trump officials on Yemen strike | Pentagon details $534M border deployment cost

Happy Tuesday 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: The lineup of America's next top generals is taking shape.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced Tuesday morning that Air Force Gen. John Hyten had been nominated to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A Pentagon press release later Tuesday confirmed he was officially nominated.

If confirmed, Hyten would take over for Air Force Gen. Paul Selva when his term ends this summer.

About Hyten: Hyten has served as commander of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom), a role that puts him in charge of the U.S. nuclear forces, since 2016.

Prior to taking the helm at Stratcom, Hyten was the commander of Air Force Space Command. Throughout his career, he has been a strong proponent of space-based missile defense sensors.

Hyten also recently expressed concern that Moscow is developing weapons outside the scope of the New START Treaty, which caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads allowed by Russia and United States. He added, however, that he is still a "big supporter" of the treaty.

Other changes: Hyten would be the No. 2 to Army Gen. Mark Milley, who Trump announced last year he would nominate to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Pentagon announced Milley was officially nominated in its Tuesday afternoon press release.

Milley, if confirmed, would take over for Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, whose term ends in September.

The service chiefs are also turning over this year as part of regularly scheduled rotations. As previously reported, Lt. Gen. David Berger has been nominated to be the next Marines commandant and Gen. James McConville has been nominated to be Army chief of staff.

 

MORE PRESSURE ON YEMEN: A Democratic congressman is pressing the Trump administration on U.S. involvement in two recent high-profile instances of civilian casualties in Yemen.

Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuDemocratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' Democratic lawmaker says Nunes threatened to sue him over criticism Paralysis of nations is empowering cities MORE (D-Calif.) is sending separate letters Tuesday to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCountries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo Trump Jr.: If 'weaker' Republicans only call for certain witnesses, 'they don't deserve to be in office' House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE and acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall MORE about a March airstrike that hit a hospital and an April strike near a school. Combined, the strikes killed about 20 people.

"Unfortunately, these horrific airstrikes on civilian targets are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a long track record of bombing civilians at markets, weddings, schools, hospitals, funerals and other off-limits sites that have killed over 4,600 civilians since 2015," Lieu wrote in both letters, obtained by The Hill ahead of their public release.

In his letter to Shanahan, Lieu asked whether "refueling assistance resumed since the 2018 announcement" that the Trump administration would no longer provide such assistance.

Yemen bill watch: Lieu's letters come after Congress passed a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's civil war, sending it to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE's desk for his signature.

House Democrats held a signing ceremony Tuesday to "enroll" the bill, a procedural step before the bill can officially be sent to the White House and kick off the 10-day clock for the president to sign or veto it.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements Rep. Ro Khanna: You can't claim you're resisting President Trump and hand the Pentagon a blank check Sanders campaign co-chair calls for progressive unity amid senators' fallout MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday he has not yet gotten a response from Trump to his letter last week requesting a meeting about the issue.

But Khanna said he continues to hold out hope Trump will sign the bill, citing Trump's comments to reporters Thursday that he'll "look at it."

"It's better than, 'I'm going to veto it,'" Khanna said.

 

BORDER DEPLOYMENT COST DETAILS: The Trump administration's deployment of troops to the southern border is expected to cost at least $534 million by the end of the fiscal year in September, the Pentagon told lawmakers in a letter released Tuesday.

That includes $350 million on the National Guard-backed mission called Operation Guardian Support for the current and previous fiscal year, and $184 million for the active-duty supported mission called Operation Secure Line.

The Operation Secure Line amount only accounts for the total through the end of this past January, meaning the cost will almost definitely rise.

"The DoD border support mission continues to evolve as the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Northern Command refine the operation," Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano wrote in the letter. "As a result, DoD is in the process of capturing requirements and estimating the potential costs. This cost will depend on the total size, duration and scope of the support."

Just the Marines: Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller also revealed earlier Tuesday his service's share of the border deployment has been $6.2 million.

Neller made waves last month when two memos leaked in which he warned the border deployment was one of several "unplanned/unbudgeted" events posing an "unacceptable risk" to the service's combat readiness.

But during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, Neller downplayed the importance of the border deployment to the Marine Corps's financial issues, stressing it was just one of eight areas contributing to a shortfall.

"I've personally checked the readiness of every unit down there, and with only one exception there was no impact to their actual readiness," Neller told senators. "In fact a couple of units improved their readiness. So to say that going to the border was degrading our readiness is not an accurate statement."

 

CONGRESS RATCHETS UP TURKEY PRESSURE: The top four members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees are warning Turkey it will need to make a choice between the United States and Russia for its defense needs.

In a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday, Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Senators take oath for impeachment trial Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers MORE (R-Okla.) and ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change MORE (D-R.I.), as well as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischSenate vote on Trump's new NAFTA held up by committee review Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (R-Idaho) and ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) vowed not to allow Turkey to have both the U.S.-made F-35 aircraft and the Russian-made S-400 missile system.

"By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It will not have both," the senators wrote.

Legislation?: The senators vowed that if Erdoğan accepts the S-400, "no F-35s will ever reach Turkish soil."

"We are committed to taking all necessary legislative action to ensure this is the case," they wrote.

Inhofe and Reed in particular will be in a position to do something as they write the Senate's version of the annual defense policy bill. Last year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a provision that blocked delivery of the F-35s until the Pentagon gave Congress a report on U.S.-Turkish relations.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown GOP senator on Trump soliciting foreign interference: 'Those are just statements' Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel MORE (R-Texas), also told reporters Tuesday there is a "strong bipartisan feeling" Turkey should not have the F-35 if it chooses the S-400.

Asked whether the issue should be addressed in the House version of this year's NDAA, Thornberry said Congress should "see where we are come June" when the House marks up its version.

 

COUNTDOWN TO NDAA: As sure a sign of spring as Washington, D.C.'s cherry blossoms are for some people, defense watchers known it's spring when the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) markup rolls around.

The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Tuesday the schedule for its markup at the end of May.

As usual, most of the committee's markups will be behind closed doors. The only one open to the public is the personnel subcommittee.

The action starts May 20 with the subcommittees on readiness, airland and strategic forces. May 21 will see the subcommittees on cybersecurity, seapower, personnel and emerging threats and capabilities.

The full committee will then mark up the bill May 22 and, if necessary, May 23.

In the House: Speaking to reporters Thursday, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said it is likely the House committee's markup will be in June.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9:15 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2X41cEF

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. aid to Central America at 9:30 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. https://bit.ly/2U7hfzq

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller will testify before the House Armed Services Committee at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2118. https://bit.ly/2G04CBo

The Senate Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee will hold a hearing on the National Guard and reserve budget request for fiscal 2020 at 10 a.m. at Dirksen 138. https://bit.ly/2G0W7WA

A Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on Marine Corps modernization and naval aviation programs at 10 a.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 232A. https://bit.ly/2YTJNzV

Another Senate Armed Services subcommittee will have a closed-door hearing on the defense industrial base's cybersecurity policy at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/2I3DX9Z

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on implementation of the VA Mission Act at 2:30 p.m. at Russell 418. https://bit.ly/2D2vP5C

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Left-center divide forces Dems to scrap budget vote

-- The Hill: Top Armed Services Republican: 'I don't think anybody is satisfied' with Space Force proposal

-- The Hill: Contractor reported killed in Afghan blast found alive

-- The Hill: Warren, Gillibrand ask Defense whether border deployments hurt troop readiness

-- The Hill: Opinion: A US return to JCPOA would be a dangerous choice