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Overnight Defense: Trump plan to pull troops from Germany gets bipartisan pushback | Top GOP senator says it's time to look at changing Confederate-named bases | GOP divided over renaming Army bases

Overnight Defense: Trump plan to pull troops from Germany gets bipartisan pushback | Top GOP senator says it's time to look at changing Confederate-named bases | GOP divided over renaming Army bases

Happy Tuesday 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: President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE is pressing forward with plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Germany, a controversial decision that has led military experts to warn the U.S. will lose influence in the region and cede power to Russia.

Trump confirmed Monday his administration’s plans to cut the U.S. troops roughly in half, sparking a fresh round of criticism against the idea from both sides of the aisle.

“The United States’ military presence in Germany is mutually beneficial to both nations, and bolsters the transatlantic alliance. It’s also an invaluable hub for U.S. military operations,” Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: How members of the Armed Services committees fared in Tuesday's elections | Military ballots among those uncounted in too-close-to-call presidential race | Ninth US service member killed by COVID-19 Biden wins New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Congress should not stand idly by while President Trump inflicts lasting damage to our transatlantic relations and harms our national security objectives.” 

Conservatives balk: In a relatively rare public rebuke last week, 22 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee urged Trump to reverse course, prior to him confirming such plans.

Led by Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Defense bill moves to formal negotiations with Confederate name fight looming Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the panel, GOP lawmakers pointed to the U.S. troops being stationed in Germany since World War II, arguing that their presence “has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer.”

The conservative Heritage Foundation, meanwhile, blasted out a news release Tuesday labeling Trump’s planned drawdown as a “mistake” and calling on Congress to block any funding to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Europe.

“With all the security challenges along Europe’s periphery, and with a revisionist Russia threatening the U.S. and its NATO allies, American military capability in Europe should be increased, not reduced,” Heritage said in the release.

A long term threat comes to fruition: In pushing forward with a drawdown, Trump is carrying out thinly veiled threats he has issued throughout his presidency.

Trump has fumed repeatedly about the fact that Germany is not meeting NATO’s defense spending goal, incorrectly describing Berlin as being “delinquent” on payments to the alliance.

In 2014, NATO countries agreed to each spend 2 percent of their gross domestic products on their defense budgets by 2024. Just eight countries are at the 2-percent mark right now. Several others have plans to meet it by the deadline, but Germany is not on track to meet the goal.

When he announced plans Monday to drop the number of troops from 52,000 to 25,000, Trump pointed to Germany not meeting NATO’s defense spending goal and indicated he is unhappy with trade negotiations with Berlin.

“One of the only countries that hasn’t agreed to pay what they’re supposed to pay is Germany, so I said until they pay, we’re removing our soldiers,” Trump said. “And then when we get down to 25,000, we’ll see where we’re going.”

Up for debate: NATO’s defense ministers are scheduled to meet virtually Wednesday and Thursday, when Trump’s now-confirmed plan to draw down is expected to be a topic of debate.

At a pre-ministerial press conference Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg downplayed concerns by arguing Trump has not made a “final decision” on “how and when” to draw down.

A warning from NATO: But Stoltenberg, who said he talked to Trump about the matter last week, also warned that such a move would mean a loss of U.S. influence in a key part of the world.

“My message was that the U.S. presence in Europe, it’s good for Europe, but it’s also good for North America and the United States, because the transatlantic bond is essential to the strength and the success of the alliance,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

The troops there currently: Germany is home to the headquarters for the U.S. military’s European and Africa commands.

Right now, there are about 35,000 U.S. troops in Germany, and the number can be as high as 52,000 under the existing cap.

The U.S. has had troops in Berlin since the Cold War, but the number of troops stationed there has steadily dropped from roughly 200,000 since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. 

Congress could block: Congress has in the past used the annual defense policy bill to ensure Trump does not withdraw troops overseas, such as last year’s bill prohibiting funding to reduce the number of troops in South Korea.

A Senate Armed Services Committee aide told reporters last week that the Germany issue came up too late in the panel’s process to address it in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the committee approved last week. But the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to take up its version July 1.

 

TOP GOP SENATOR SAYS IT'S TIME TO LOOK AT CHANGING CONFEDERATE-NAMED BASES: Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said on Tuesday that it is time to discuss renaming military bases named after Confederate figures and signaled that he is open to talking about changing the names.

"I think you reevaluate, given the timing and circumstances and where we are in the country, who we want to revere ... by naming military installations and other national monuments. And so I think you have to periodically take a look at that and, in this case, it's perhaps time to do it," he told reporters.

Earlier: The Senate Armed Services Committee last week included a provision, by voice vote, that would form a commission to come up with a plan to rename the bases, which would then be implemented after three years.

Asked about the issue on Thursday, Thune told reporters that he wasn't aware of the panel's vote. He said on Monday that he has been "working through" the issue and that he is not "wedded to the idea that those names of those military installations are eternal."

"My guess is that this is a debate whose time has probably come and I think that we need to listen to where people in the country are right now. ... Obviously, at the time, maybe it made some sense based on where the country [was], but the country's in a different place today," Thune added.

A shift: Thune is the highest-ranking Republican to signal that he could be open to changing the base names, though he did not explicitly say he supports the language, spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (D-Mass.), included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he was open to the idea.

“If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names, I’m personally okay with that and I am a descendent of a Confederate veteran myself,” McConnell told reporters.

The Senate is expected to take up the NDAA as soon as this month.

But resistance in the ranks: Some GOP senators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (R-Okla.) and Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Rush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: 'This guy is the real deal' MORE (R-Mo.), have indicated they will try to change the language on renaming Confederate bases. Inhofe has said he wants to change the requirement that the Pentagon "shall" carry out the plan on renaming the military installations to "may," which would give them flexibility to decide whether to change the names.

Hawley told reporters on Monday night that he wanted to get rid of the mandate requiring that the base names be changed.

But Republicans could face an uphill battle to get the language changed on the Senate floor.

Thune said on Tuesday that he expects changing the language will require 60 votes, meaning they would need buy-in from Democrats.

Pressure from the White House: The requirement to change the name of the bases has sparked pushback from President Trump, with the White House warning that he would veto a bill that required that they be changed.

Thune said while Congress didn't want to "trifle" with a veto threat, it also wasn't "insurmountable" and floated the possibility that Trump could change his mind.

"Maybe, in time, you know the president's position on that based on what he's hearing and kind of where Congress ends up on this, he may end up, who knows, modifying that to," Thune said.

"I don't know at this point the answer to that, but I think we have to, we have to proceed here, and you know right now we've got a provision in a bill that at least for right now looks like that's going to be maybe the new position. We've got a lot of legislative process to go through," he added.

 

GOP DIVIDED IN FIGHT OVER RENAMING BASES: A legislative fight over whether to rename military installations named after Confederate generals is quickly dividing Senate Republicans and creating campaign headaches.

GOP strategists warn that a misstep could prove costly, giving GOP senators heartburn in a year when they have to defend 23 seats, compared to just 12 for Democrats, who are growing increasingly confident of their chances to win back the majority in November.

The hot-button issue took shape last week when a group of Republicans led by Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection More conservatives break with Trump over election claims MORE (R-Ark.) called for modifying an amendment sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would direct the secretary of Defense to remove any commemoration of the Confederate States of America from all assets — with the exception of grave markers. The revised provision was later approved during a markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with some GOP support.

Cotton ultimately voted against the amendment by voice vote when Warren didn't accept all of his proposed changes.

A surprise: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a rising conservative star, is now leading an effort to weaken language that he said caught many of his GOP colleagues by surprise.

“This was unexpected, I think. A lot of people did not know this was even going to be voted on,” Hawley said. “And then their initial impression was, ‘Oh, this is just a study.’ They don’t realize that actually no, as Sen. Warren said, it’s mandatory language.”

Hawley’s push could put some Republicans in a bind, particularly those who supported the measure behind closed doors, even though Warren’s amendment was adopted by voice vote, meaning there’s no official record of which GOP members voted for it.

Read more about the conflict here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense One will hold a Tech Summit virtual discussion on "Bringing America's Tech Talent into the Defense Department,” at 8 a.m. https://d1techsummit.com/

 

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a webcast on the “Latest developments in the U.S.-ROK alliance and on the Korean peninsula,” with retired Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, former commander of U.S. Forces Korea, at 9 a.m. https://www.csis.org/events/online-event-korea-chair-capital-cable-4?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

The National Defense Industrial Association will hold a virtual meeting on “Biotechnology for Materiel and Defense,” with Steve Walker, CTO of Lockheed Martin; Ben Petro, human systems director the office of the Defense undersecretary for research and engineering; and Michelle Rozo, assistant biotechnology director in the Office of the Defense undersecretary for research and engineering, at 9 a.m. https://www.ndia.org/events/2020/6/17/biotechnology-for-materiel-and-defense-symposium?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

The National Defense Industrial Association will also hold a virtual training and simulation industry symposium, with Navy Capt. Tim Hill, commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and Naval Support Activity Orlando; and James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, at 9 a.m. https://www.trainingsystems.org/events/2020/6/16/01t0?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

Lt. Gen. J.T. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., will speak during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies “Space Power Forum” webcast at 11 a.m. https://www.mitchellaerospacepower.org/aerospace-nation?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates will speak during a Center for Strategic and International Studies webcast on “Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World,” at 11:30 a.m. https://www.csis.org/events/online-book-event-exercise-power-secretary-robert-m-gates?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

The Hudson Institute will host a webinar on “Maintaining a Free and Open Indo-Pacific as Tensions Simmer,” with former national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, at 12 p.m. https://www.hudson.org/events/1831-video-event-maintaining-a-free-and-open-indo-pacific-as-tensions-simmer62020?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America will hold a Facebook Live video conference discussing “Priorities for Veterans,” with House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs ranking member Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Diana Harshbarger wins GOP primary to replace Rep. Phil Roe We need to focus on veterans in need of service dogs MORE (R-Tenn.), at 4:30 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/IAVA.org/posts/10160071829397995?notif_id=1591821015155111&notif_t=live_video_schedule_broadcaster&utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20601620_06/16/2020&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

 

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