Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Reports detail effect of transgender military ban | Watchdog auditing $128 billion submarine program | Warren questions top general on climate change

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: Reports are starting to emerge about the effects of the Trump administration's policy banning most transgender people from military service that was implemented Friday.

In one case that's making headlines, a first-year student at the University Texas at Austin says he lost his Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship because of the policy.

"I was told that my scholarship is void," Map Pesqueira, a 19-year-old transgender man, told The Dallas Morning News.

Pesqueira's case is causing some confusion, though, because as someone who was already in ROTC he was supposed to be grandfathered-in to the 2016 policy allowing open service by transgender people.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense (DOD) declined comment on the specific case because they "don't know the details" of Pesqueira's scholarship. But the spokeswoman, Jessica Maxwell, added: "No person, solely on the basis of gender identity, will be denied continuation of service."

"Individuals are exempt from the new 2018 policy (and fall under the 2016 policy) if they were selected for entrance into an officer commissioning program, and either were selected into ROTC in their preferred gender or received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria while a Service member," she said.

In the military academies: Meanwhile, the Naval Academy is saying the policy will go into effect there starting fall 2020.

That means midshipmen starting this coming fall will still be covered by the 2016 open service policy.

"Our understanding is that the policy will go into effect for those students applying to enter the Naval Academy in 2020, beginning with the Class of 2024," a Naval Academy spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

The news was first reported by the Capital Gazette.

 

SUBMARINE AUDIT: The Pentagon's watchdog plans to audit how well the Navy is handling the development of its new $128 billion Columbia-class nuclear-armed submarines, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General is expected to start the review in June to look at how well the service is overseeing the development of the propulsion and steering system on the underwater craft, at least 17 months before construction is set to begin on the first of them.

The audit will "determine whether the Navy is managing the development" of the system to "ensure that it meets performance requirements without cost increases or schedule overruns," the office wrote in its fiscal 2019 audit plan.

Why it's important: While the General Dynamics-built submarine is still largely in the design phase, an audit this early indicates that there may be unease with the technology development for the vessel.

The audit is expected to be completed in 2020, ahead of the October start date to begin construction.

A spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command told Bloomberg that the service looks "forward to working with the DoD IG on any such effort."

 

CLIMATE CHANGE QUESTIONS: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is pressing the nation's top general on the threat of climate change.

In an eight-page letter to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Warren asked for unclassified answers by May 13 on how the military is addressing climate change.

"The Department of Defense must do more than simply acknowledge or take piecemeal actions to address climate change while it increasingly threatens and harms our military's infrastructure and operations," Warren wrote in the letter dated Tuesday. "Fundamentally, adapting to climate change is a necessary component of maintaining readiness. We must act decisively to prepare for this threat, and our military is as capable as anyone of leading the way."

Background: Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has asked questions about climate change to several top officials testifying before the committee, including the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the chiefs of the Air Force and Army, the secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, and the chiefs of European Command, Transportation Command and Indo-Pacific Command.

The bulk of her eight-page letter is spent recapping the testimony those officials gave.

"Each of these military leaders has acknowledged the threat of climate change to our military's infrastructure and operations, and that adapting to climate change is a factor in military readiness," Warren wrote. "None has denied the threat of climate change. This uniformity of opinion among military leaders underscores my concern about the need to act vigorously and expeditiously to mitigate this threat."

What she wants: Warren specifically asked Dunford for a written summary of the Pentagon's "comprehensive approach to building resilience to climate change risks," another written summary of the department's "comprehensive approach to reducing climate change" and an update on the status of the implementation of the Government Accountability Office recommendations to adapt overseas infrastructure to climate change.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Hudson Institute will host "Crisis in Yemen: A Strategic Threat to U.S. Interests and Allies?" at 11:45 a.m. https://bit.ly/2GkcUEo

 

ICYMI

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