Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: House Dems offer $1M for Army to rename bases | Bill takes aim at money for Trump’s border wall | Suspect in custody after shooting at Marine training facility 

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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: House Democrats’ version of the annual defense spending bill would give the Army $1 million to help remove Confederate names from bases and other property.

The bill would set aside that money from the Army’s operations and maintenance account to use on “expenses for the renaming of Army installations, facilities, roads and streets named after confederate leaders and officers,” according to draft text released by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

The provision is included in the $694.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal year 2021 that the House Appropriations defense subcommittee is scheduled to consider behind closed doors Wednesday.

A Democratic summary of the bill said the money would be provided because “the Army has the preponderance of the entities to change.” The Army has 10 bases named after Confederate military officers.

Background: It’s the latest move in Congress to nudge or require the Pentagon to rename properties that have Confederate monikers as President Trump continues to express opposition to the move.

Amid nationwide protests against racial injustices that reignited debates about Confederate symbols, the Army said last month it was open to renaming the bases. But days later, Trump said he would “not even consider” changing the names.

Trump has also threatened to veto the annual defense policy bill if it includes a requirement to rename the bases.

Elsewhere in Congress: Both the House and the Senate versions of the policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), include such a requirement. The House version would require the bases to be renamed in one year, while the Senate version would require it to happen within three years.

Some Republicans in the Senate are hoping to strip the requirement out of the upper chamber’s NDAA when it finishes consideration of the bill later this month, but an amendment from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to do that faces an uphill climb to getting a vote.

Meanwhile, a separate spending bill from House Democrats that covers military construction would block funding for construction projects at bases that have Confederate names unless the properties are in the process of being renamed.

Grassley warns of a Trump override: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is warning that Congress would likely override Trump if he vetoes the mammoth defense policy bill over the fight about renaming the Army bases.

Grassley, during a call with Iowa reporters on Monday, said he hoped Trump wouldn’t veto the NDAA, which is set to pass the Senate later this month, over the base renaming. 

“If it came to overriding a veto, we’d probably override the veto,” Grassley said.


HOUSE SPENDING BILL WOULD MAKE PENTAGON GIVE BACK UNSPENT WALL MONEY: A defense spending bill written by House Democrats aims to reverse President Trump’s move earlier this year to take $3.8 billion from weapons programs and other Pentagon accounts to use on his U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the fiscal 2021 defense appropriations bill would require that the Defense Department put money it transferred in February back into its original accounts if it hasn’t been spent by the time the bill becomes law, according to text released by the committee Tuesday.

The provision is one of several in the bill that takes aim at Trump’s reliance on Pentagon funding to build his border wall.

“We have the most capable and advanced military in the world, and this bill honors their mission by adequately funding programs to care for servicemembers and their families, and by including provisions to end the Trump administration’s theft of defense funds to pay for a wasteful border wall,” committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

What else is in the bill: The $694.6 billion Pentagon spending bill would cover $626.2 billion in base budget funding and $68.4 billion in a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

The money would go toward a 3 percent pay raise for troops, 91 F-35 fighter jets, nine new Navy ships and $758 million to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on subcontractors in the defense industrial base, among other big-ticket items.

But it’s the border wall that has become a perennial fight in defense and spending bills throughout Trump’s tenure.

Earlier: In February, the Pentagon notified lawmakers it would take $3.8 billion from accounts such as the F-35 program, shipbuilding programs and equipment for the National Guard and reserves, and put the money into its counter-drug fund to use for the border wall.

That came on top of the Pentagon last year transferring $2.5 billion from various accounts into the counter-drug fund for the wall as well Trump taking $3.6 billion from military construction funding.

The moves have infuriated Democrats and a few Republicans who say Trump is ignoring Congress’s power of the purse.

The fine details: To address February’s transfer, House Democrats’ defense spending bill would require that “funds made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2020 that were transferred by such Department on February 13, 2020, and remain unobligated as of the date of the enactment of this Act shall be returned to the original account or accounts and may not be used for any purpose other than the original purposes for which they were appropriated by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2020.”

The bill would also broadly prohibit the use of Pentagon funding on a barrier on the southern border.

It would also cap the amount of money the Pentagon can transfer between accounts at $1.9 billion, down from the $9.5 billion transfer authority the department requested, in response to what a Democratic summary of the bill describes as the Pentagon’s “abuse of congressionally granted reprogramming privileges.”

The bill also targets Trump’s deployment of U.S. troops to the southern border by blocking funding for such deployments unless the Pentagon is reimbursed by another government agency. The Pentagon recently extended the deployment through September 2021 but cut the number of troops from roughly 5,500 to 4,000.


A SHOOTING AT A MARINE TRAINING FACILITY: A suspected gunman is in custody after an early morning shooting at a Marine Corps training installation in Southern California on Tuesday, according to the service.

Military police responded to shots fired at 6:30 a.m. at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center and “cordoned the area,” the service said in a tweet.

A base spokesperson later told The Hill that the suspect “sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 8:30 a.m.” and “is currently being treated and will be transported to a medical facility.”

No other injuries were reported and the incident is under investigation.

Twentynine Palms — located about 150 miles east of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert — is the largest Marine Corps base in the world and a top training facility for the service.



Brookings Institution and the European Union Delegation to the United States will hold the EU Defense Washington Forum via webcast, with EU Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, U.S. Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Marshall Billingslea at 9 a.m.



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Tags Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Josh Hawley Nita Lowey
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