Overnight Defense: Army now willing to rename bases named after Confederates | Dems demand answers on 'unfathomable' nuke testing discussions | Pentagon confirms death of north African al Qaeda leader

Overnight Defense: Army now willing to rename bases named after Confederates | Dems demand answers on 'unfathomable' nuke testing discussions | Pentagon confirms death of north African al Qaeda leader
© Greg Nash

Happy Monday 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: Amid nationwide protests over racial injustices, the Army is taking another look at its bases that are named after Confederate military officers. 

An Army spokesperson said Monday that Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyOvernight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command Capitol Police chief apologizes, admits to department's failures in riot DC National Guard commander says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot MORE is open to renaming bases that are named after Confederate leaders, a reversal from as recently as February.

“The secretary of the Army is open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic,” the spokesperson said.

There are 10 Army bases around the country named for Confederate heroes: Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beuregard.

Background: In February, the service told Task and Purpose it had no plans to change the name of any base, including those named after Confederate military officers.

The Army has previously argued the bases were named in the “spirit of reconciliation.”

But the service has been under increasing pressure to rename the bases, with advocates for doing so arguing it is not appropriate to honor those who betrayed the country and fought to preserve slavery. A New York Times editorial last month said the bases “celebrate white supremacist traitors.”

In the Marines: The Army’s announcement also comes after the Marine Corps officially banned the display of the Confederate battle flag. On Friday, the Marine Corps issued guidance on removing public displays of the flag, including on clothing, mugs, posters and bumper stickers.

"The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremists and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps," the Marines said Friday. "This presents a threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline. This must be addressed."

The guidance followed Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s announcement in February he would ban the display of all Confederate-related symbols.

TOP DEMS DEMAND ANSWERS ON POSSIBLE NUKE TESTING: A group of top House Democrats is demanding answers from the Trump administration on reported conversations within the administration on whether to resume nuclear testing.

“It is unfathomable that the administration is considering something so short-sighted and dangerous, and that directly contradicts its own 2018 Nuclear Posture Review,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter Monday to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE.

The posture review, the lawmakers wrote, “which this administration often cites as inviolable, makes clear that ‘the United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.’”

The letter was signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display Nearly 5,000 National Guard troops to stay in DC over concerns of potential violence in March MORE (D-Wash.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.), along with Reps. Jim CooperJim CooperDeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes Colorado presses Biden to reverse Trump Space Command move Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote MORE (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces; Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturCreate a bulwark against Chinese economic coercion: Advance open RAN in Europe The Memo: Ohio Dem says many in party 'can't understand' working-class concerns Tim Ryan planning to declare run for Ohio Senate seat by March: NYT MORE (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water; and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The Pentagon declined to comment, with spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver saying that "as with all congressional correspondence, we will respond directly to the author(s) of the letter.”

A Department of Energy official said the department received the letter and "will respond to the members through the appropriate channels."

Background: The Washington Post reported last month that the idea of conducting the United States’s first nuclear test in decades was raised at a May 15 meeting of senior officials. An official told the Post a test could be useful to gain leverage over Russia and China as the administration seeks a new trilateral nuclear agreement.

One official told the Post the idea for a test is “very much an ongoing conversation,” while another official said a decision was made to avoid resuming testing.

The United States has not conducted an explosive nuclear test since 1992, checking the efficacy and reliability of its weapons with subcritical tests that produce no nuclear yield, computer simulations and other scientific methods.

Other congressional activity: A separate letter Monday to President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE, Esper and Brouillette from Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterLawmakers grill NSA on years-old breach in the wake of massive Russian hack Hillicon Valley: WhatsApp delays controversial privacy update | Amazon hit with antitrust lawsuit alleging e-book price fixing | Biden launches new Twitter account ahead of inauguration Illinois Democrat calls for new committee focused exclusively on information technology MORE (D-Ill.), co-signed by 80 other House and Senate Democrats, similarly warned that “taking this unnecessary and provocative step would be an abdication of America’s scientific leadership and would weaken our ability to make the world a safer place to live.”

Also Monday, Democratic Reps. Dina TitusAlice (Dina) Costandina TitusHouse Democrats introduce bill to address diversity at State Department Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE and Steven HorsfordSteven Alexander HorsfordCongressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' House panel advances measure expanding unemployment benefits in relief package Nevada Democrat Steven Horsford wins reelection MORE, both representing Nevada, introduced a bill that seeks to prevent a resumption in nuclear testing. The legislation is a companion bill to one introduced in the upper chamber last week by Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyLawmakers commemorate one-year anniversary of Arbery's killing Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses LIVE COVERAGE: Senate trial moves to closing arguments MORE (D-Mass.).

PENTAGON CONFIRMS DEATH OF NORTH AFRICAN AL QAEDA LEADER: French troops last week killed a top al Qaeda leader in northern Mali, the Pentagon confirmed Monday

French officials announced on Friday that two days earlier forces killed Abdelmalek Droukdal, the head of the extremist group's affiliates in North Africa and the Sahel.

Droukdal was involved in all aspects of al Qaeda in the region, including financing, planning and carrying out terrorist attacks, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. 

“Droukdal was the engineer behind expanding [the group's] ideology throughout the Sahel and Maghreb, and more recently into western Africa, where al-Qa’ida aligned elements have conducted attacks and kidnappings from Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, Africom's director of intelligence, said in the statement. 

“He was responsible for numerous attacks and the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.”


Senate Armed Services Committee subpanels will mark up their portions of the National Defense Authorization Act throughout the day:

-- The emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee will hold a closed-door markup at 9:30 a.m.

-- The airland subcommittee will hold a closed-door markup at 11 a.m.

-- The personnel subcommittee will hold a public markup at 2 p.m.

-- The seapower subcommittee will hold a closed-door markup at 3:30 p.m.

-- The cybersecurity subcommittee will hold a closed-door markup at 5:30 p.m.


Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Iran, will speak at a webinar hosted by the Heritage Foundation at 10:30 a.m. https://herit.ag/2YflWeD

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host an online event, “The Role of the Military During Times of Civil Discord,” featuring former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman retired Adm. Mike Mullen at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/3cJi3nz


-- The Hill: Defense bill turns into proxy battle over Floyd protests

-- The Hill: Voices grow in condemnation of Trump's military response to protests

-- The Hill: Reported US troop drawdown could hurt NATO security, German official says

-- The Hill: Opinion: Why are we pulling additional forces out of Germany?

-- The Hill: Opinion: We must constrain Iran's access to weapons — especially as it steps up cyberattacks

-- Stars and Stripes: More than 40 states, countries now meet criteria to lift travel restrictions for service members and families

-- Reuters: Exclusive: U.S. Navy test shows 60 percent of carrier crew have coronavirus antibodies

-- Bloomberg: U.S. and Russia to meet June 22 on curbing nuclear stockpiles