Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pompeo visits Iraq amid Iran tensions | Central Command offers more details on carrier, bomber deployments | Shanahan calls for Maduro to step down | Dems unveil 2020 spending plan

Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pompeo visits Iraq amid Iran tensions | Central Command offers more details on carrier, bomber deployments | Shanahan calls for Maduro to step down | Dems unveil 2020 spending plan
© Stefani Reynolds

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: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack The US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world MORE traveled to Iraq on Tuesday, amid  escalating U.S.-Iran tensions.

"The reason we're going is you've all seen the reports that there have been escalating -- information that indicates that Iran is escalating their activity," Pompeo told reporters traveling with him.

"I wanted to go to Baghdad to speak with the leadership there, to assure them that we stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq was a sovereign, independent nation, and that the United States would continue to help build out partners in the region -- the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Emiratis, all of the Gulf states who want to see a free, independent, sovereign Iraq. And so that's the primary mission set," he said.

Pompeo's surprise visit to Baghdad came after the State Department abruptly canceled a planned trip to Berlin on Tuesday. The secretary of State said that he spoke with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whom he said "understood completely" the need to reschedule. 

"He also knows that our relationship with Iraq is important, and we're partners in the challenges that Iran presents to Germany and to Europe as well," Pompeo said.

Deployment clarification: U.S. Central Command confirmed Tuesday the bombers headed to the Middle East will be B-52s as it sought to clarify plans to deploy a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region days after national security advisor John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonUS ramping up digital attacks on Russia's power grid: report US ramping up digital attacks on Russia's power grid: report US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack MORE announced the move.

"We continue to closely monitor the activities of the regime in Iran, their military, the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], and their proxies, and we are well postured to defend U.S. forces and interests," Central Command (Centcom) spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement released by the Pentagon. "The deployment of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force are considered prudent steps to protect U.S. forces and interests in the region and to deter any aggression."

B-52s have alternated deployments to the region with B-1s, with the B-52s last there in 2018.

In Tuesday's statement, presented as a Q&A, Urban also confirmed the USS Abraham Lincoln's deployment was previously "expected to include a significant amount of time" in Central Command.

But, Urban added, the deployment to the area is now "expected ahead of its original schedule and is in response to credible threats in the CENTCOM region."

In line with the expedited arrival in the Middle East, the Lincoln's previously planned port visit Split, Croatia has been canceled, U.S. European Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Hontz said in a statement released with Urban's. 

 

 

SHANAHAN CALLS FOR MADURO TO STEP DOWN: Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April MORE and Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez Tuesday called on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to relinquish power.

In a joint statement after a meeting at the Pentagon, Shanahan and Ramírez said opposition leader Juan Guaidó is "the legitimate leader of Venezuela who is officially recognized by 54 countries around the world, and the democratically elected National Assembly."

Colombia is the United States' top ally in the region, and also the largest recipient of refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

A comforting deployment: Shanahan also announced Tuesday the U.S. military will deploy a Navy hospital ship to South America in response to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The Pentagon will send the USNS Comfort – the same ship sent last year to care for Venezuelan refugees in Central and South America – as "part of ongoing planning that we are doing here in the department," Shanahan said.

"It's been a very fluid situation," Shanahan told reporters prior to the meeting with Ramírez.

The Pentagon said in a separate statement Tuesday that the ship is scheduled to deploy in June from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., to the Caribbean, Central America and South America for a five-month humanitarian mission.

The ship will "conduct humanitarian medical assistance missions in support of regional partners and in response to the regional impacts of the Venezuela political and economic crisis," the statement said.

Global hotspots: What do the Venezuela crisis and the Iran issues discussed above have in common? They're both adding to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE full plate of global crises.

The Hill's Brett Samuels took a look Tuesday at how Trump is facing a key stretch of his presidency with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and China.

Catch up on that here.

 

HOUSE DEMS RELEASE DEFENSE TOPLINE: House Democrats on Tuesday introduced their plan for allocating $1.3 trillion in spending for 2020, an amount that's about $51 billion above current levels.

The House Appropriations Committee detailed how Democrats intend to distribute defense and nondefense spending among the 12 spending bills that fund the federal government each fiscal year.

About $27 billion of the $51 billion funding increase was allocated to Defense and the Labor, Health, Human Services and Education (Labor-H) bills -- the two largest spending measures.

Defense received a $15.5 billion boost, bringing its proposed funding to $622 billion. The figure reflects changes in spending governed by discretionary caps and not the significant amount that is directed in emergency spending or in the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

 

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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee defense subpanel at 10 a.m. at the Senate, room 128. https://bit.ly/2J68C7b 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the administration's fiscal 2020 budget request for the U.S. Agency for International Development at 10 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2WwzSyH

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on missile defense programs in fiscal 2020 at 2 p.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://bit.ly/2Wv35dz

A Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the Department of Energy's atomic defense programs at 2:30 p.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 222. https://bit.ly/2WlNI6X

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has three hearings scheduled:

-- A full committee hearing on adapting U.S. strategy toward China at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2V12uyw

-- A subcommittee hearing on U.S. relations in the Gulf at 1:30 p.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2VkIRqh

-- A subcommittee hearing on China's growing influence in Asia and the United States at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2200. https://bit.ly/2J3Z1xE

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: US Navy plans to boost submarine spending to $5 billion by 2024

-- The Hill: Trump pardons ex-soldier convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner

-- The Hill: Air Force veteran sues VA hospital over Bible display

-- The Hill: Opinion: Strategic misalignment and the risk of war with Iran