Overnight Defense: Details on House defense bill | Bill won't make military sexual harassment a standalone crime | Lawmakers look to improve military housing | Bill blocks early retirement of aircraft carrier

Overnight Defense: Details on House defense bill | Bill won't make military sexual harassment a standalone crime | Lawmakers look to improve military housing | Bill blocks early retirement of aircraft carrier

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm 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: Ahead of the House Armed Services Committee's Tuesday markups for the fiscal 2020 defense spending bill, the panel gave journalists a peak into their plans for the bill.

Committee staff provided some interesting details, including news that the bill won't include a Pentagon request to make sexual harassment a stand-alone crime in the military justice system.

The request came too late for the committee to include it in the annual defense policy bill, committee staff said Monday.


"We got the request a little for our process," a committee staffer told reporters. "If something comes later on, then we'll look at it as it happens."


The background: The Pentagon in May asked Congress to make sexual harassment a stand-alone crime in the Uniform Code of Military Justice as part of list of recommendations from the Sexual Assault Accountability and Investigation Task Force created at the urging of Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Chris Christie says Trump team wasn't aggressive enough early in COVID-19 crisis; Tensions between White House, Fauci boil over Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (R-Ariz.), who recently disclosed she was raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force.

The Senate's version of the defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes the requested provision.


The House path: While the House Armed Services Committee's version does not, the panel's personnel subcommittee includes several other provisions aimed at tackling sexual assault, staffers said Monday.

Those include expanding special victim's counsel to domestic violence victims and increasing criminal investigators in an effort to reduce the duration of investigations, according to staffers..

Asked about taking the decision to prosecute sexual assault away from military commanders or studying that possibility -- a step supported by some lawmakers and advocates -- a staffer said it's "not in the subcommittee" legislation.


On military housing: Outside of sexual assault, the personnel's subcommittee portion of the NDAA tackles the heated issue of military housing.

A 2018 Reuters investigation, followed by a series of congressional hearings, unveiled instances of black mold, rodent infestation and collapsing ceilings in military housing, prompting bipartisan outrage.

To address the issue, the NDAA would require the military to look at mold mitigations and prevention standards. The bill would also require an evaluation of a rating scale for housing based on health hazards and safety.


Blocking an early retirement: The bill would also block funding for the Navy to go below 11 aircraft carriers after the Trump administration flirted with retiring a carrier early.

"That really just reiterates current law that you need to maintain 11 carriers and [the] Truman [aircraft carrier] will be part of that," a committee staffer told reporters Monday.

In its initial budget request for fiscal 2020, the Trump administration proposed retiring the USS Harry S. Truman early so that money meant for a costly refueling of the nuclear-powered carrier could instead be used to fund new technologies such as drone ships.

But the proposal elicited fierce bipartisan backlash, and lawmakers were expected to ignore it.

On Monday, House Armed Services Committee staffers confirmed the seapower subcommittee's portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes money to refuel the Truman.

In late April while visiting the Truman, Vice President Pence announced the administration was reversing course and scrapping its plans to retire the carrier.


Stopping low-yield nuke deployment: The bill also seeks to prohibit funding to deploy low-yield nuclear warheads.

The inclusion of the provision is unsurprising, given that Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe robbing of a wildlife refuge in Nevada House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-Wash.) has said he wants to "kill" the low-yield warhead.

But it is the first concrete example of Smith working to fulfill his goal of curtailing the U.S. nuclear arsenal since he became chairman this year.

And it portends a partisan fight as the committee considers the bill, starting with the strategic forces subcommittee's markup on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Republicans on the committee said Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerCongress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Celebrating our freedoms and counting all military votes this November Will Congress finally address toxic 'forever chemicals?' MORE (R-Ohio), the subcommittee's ranking member, and Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan Thornberry4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide House panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill MORE (R-Texas), the full committee's ranking member, "fundamentally disagree" with provisions in the subcommittee's portion of the bill.

The Trump administration proposed the low-yield warhead, known as the W76-2, as part of its Nuclear Posture Review. The National Nuclear Security Administration is expected to finish production of the warhead this year, but the Pentagon still needs money to deploy them.



The House Armed Services Committee will have five open markups of the National Defense Authorization:

-- Markup for the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities at 11 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118 

-- Markup for the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces at 12 p.m. in Rayburn 2212. 

-- Markup for the Subcommittee on Personnel at 1 p.m. at Rayburn 2118. 

-- Markup for Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces at 2:30 p.m. in Rayburn 2212. 

-- Markup for Subcommittee on Strategic Forces at 3:30 p.m. in Rayburn 2118.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffStone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Overnight Defense: US formally rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims | House set to consider defense policy bill next week | 57 injured as firefighters battle warship blaze Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.), will speak on foreign policy and national security challenges facing the United States at 8:30 a.m. at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Air Force Gen. John Raymond to be U.S. Space Commander and Air Force Space Commander and Christopher Scolese to be director of the National Reconnaissance Office at 9:30 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. 

Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper will speak at a Brooking Institution discussion on "How security cooperation advances U.S. interests," at 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C. 



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