Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral

Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral
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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: A feud between President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE and the Pentagon is escalating weeks before the presidential election in which Trump sees service members, veterans and other military supporters as a key part of his base.

After days battling fallout from an explosive report alleging he made disparaging comments about dead troops, Trump on Monday turned his ire to Pentagon leaders, saying they don't support him because they are beholden to the defense industry.

Trump’s defenders on Tuesday argued he was evoking President Eisenhower’s famed warning about the military-industrial complex, not attacking any particular Pentagon officials.

But the episode is the latest chapter in an unfolding saga that has raised questions anew about whether Trump can prevent his military support from eroding.

Read more about the feud here.


LAWMAKERS LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO FORT HOOD AFTER 28TH DEATH THIS YEAR: Two House subcommittees on Tuesday opened an investigation into the string of recent soldier deaths at Fort Hood, Texas, and called on the Army to provide more documents and information. 

The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel "are jointly investigating whether an alarming pattern of recent tragedies at Fort Hood, Texas, may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command," wrote the respective subpanel heads, Reps. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchCOVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Top general negative for coronavirus, Pentagon chief to get tested after Trump result l Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Mass) and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierCalls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack Global Gag Rule is just the tip of the iceberg: Why Repealing the Helms Amendment matters Democrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol MORE (D-Calif.), in a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyArmy falsely denied Flynn brother was in meeting on riot response: report OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: 12 removed from National Guard inauguration security | Austin backs lifting transgender ban Two Guard members removed from Biden inauguration over ties to far-right groups MORE

"Where appropriate, we intend to seek justice on behalf of those in uniform, and their families, who may have been failed by a military system and culture that was ultimately responsible for their care and protection.”

A continuing problem: Fort Hood is one of the military's most troubled installations, with an average of 129 felonies committed annually between 2014 and 2019, including cases of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery and aggravated assault, according to Army data.

Last week, Pvt. Corlton Chee, 25, died after he collapsed following a physical fitness training exercise five days earlier. He was the 28th soldier at the post to die this year, according to The Associated Press.

Chee's death follows the disappearances and later discovery of the bodies of  Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, and Pfc. Gregory Morales, 24. 

Not enough, lawmakers say: The Army has since announced changes to Fort Hood leadership. It announced last week it was removing the commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, from his role and barring him from a planned position at another Texas base.

McCarthy in July directed the service to independently review the command climate at the installation.

But Lynch and Speier say that's not enough.

“While the Army has directed an independent review of Fort Hood, Congressional oversight is necessary to determine whether base leadership—by omission or commission— has allowed or enabled a culture to exist that undermines the values and traditions of the U.S. Army,” they write.

What they want: The two are requesting all relevant medical and administrative records and communications between Fort Hood leadership, military police, the Army Criminal Investigative Division, and state and local law enforcement related to any sexual assault or harassment allegations made by Fernandes, Guillen, Morales and Morta. It also wants all records and communications related to their disappearances and deaths.

They also want the specific timelines related to the Fort Hood response to any sexual assault or harassment allegations made by the four soldiers. 

They ask that the Army provide the documents by Oct. 2.


MILITARY MEMBERS CAN'T OPT OUT OF TRUMP'S PAYROLL TAX DEFERMENT: Military members will be subject to President Trump's payroll tax deferral and will not be able to opt out of it, the payroll services provider for the Department of Defense said over the weekend.

"Military members are not eligible to opt-out of the deferral if their Social Security wages fall within the stated limits," the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) said on its website. "The deferral will happen automatically." 

Specifics on the memo: Trump signed a memo last month directing the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of employee-side Social Security payroll taxes, in an effort to provide relief to workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Under IRS guidance implementing the order, employers can cease withholding the 6.2 percent Social Security tax from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 for workers who make less than $4,000 biweekly, and then recoup the money by increasing the amount withheld from workers' paychecks in the first few months of next year.

While the federal government is participating in the deferral, many private-sector employers are not expected to do so. Business groups have been critical of the deferral because they don't want to put their employees in a position where they'll get smaller than usual paychecks next year.  

How military members will be affected: The DFAS said the Social Security tax deferral will be effective for military members' mid-September pay for service members whose monthly rate of basic pay is less than $8,666.66. The payroll provider said that collection of the deferred taxes would be taken from wages between Jan. 1 and April 30 and that it would provide more information about the collection process in the future.

The payroll tax deferral will also be mandatory for civilian Defense Department employees whose wages are below $4,000 in a given biweekly pay period, the DFAS said.

FROM THE WEEKEND: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN TALKS ON MASSIVE DEFENSE BILL: The House and Senate are expected to begin negotiations in earnest in the coming weeks on a massive defense policy bill President Trump has threatened to veto.

Staffers on the House and Senate Armed Services committees have started unofficial talks since both chambers passed their versions of the $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in July, a congressional aide said. But lawmakers have not yet officially formed a conference committee to reconcile the two bills.

It’s unclear exactly when Congress will vote to go to conference, but the aide said it typically happens about 45 days after each chamber passes its version of the NDAA. Last year’s conference started in September after both chambers passed their versions in June and July.

Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA over a provision — variations of which are in each bill — that would require the Pentagon to rename military bases named after Confederate leaders.

Read more about the five issues to watch when the NDAA conference negotiations start here.



Japanese Defense Minister H.E. Kono Taro will speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies webcast: “Mt. Fuji D.C. Event: The U.S.-Japan Alliance at 60,” at 8 a.m.

The Defense Department will hold its Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition featuring Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration official Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief Watch Out: Progressives are eyeing the last slice of the budget Biden needs to fill the leadership gaps on Day One MORE; Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten; Katharina McFarland, National Security Commission on AI; Lauren Knausenberger, Air Force Chief Information Officer; and Michael Kratsios, acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, beginning at 9 a.m. 

The American Enterprise Institute will hold a webcast on “The crossroad of competition: Countering the rise of violent extremists and revisionist powers in Africa,” with Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa; at 9:15 a.m. 

Brookings Institution will hold a webinar on “U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” with Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker at 10 a.m. 

Air Force Brig. Gen. Chad Raduege will speak during the Defense Strategies Institute “Military Tactical Communications Summit” webcast at 1:30 p.m. 

The Atlantic Council will hold a webinar on “Countering New Threats to the Homeland: The Future of the Department of Homeland Security,” with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; former Deputy Assistant DHS Secretary for Counterterrorism Policy Thomas Warrick; and former Assistant DHS Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Caitlin Durkovich at 4 p.m. 


-- The Hill: Army chief says military leaders only recommend combat as 'last resort' after Trump comments

-- The Hill: Northrop Grumman wins $13.3B Air Force contract to build new ICBMs

-- The Hill: Palau offers US military new sites for Pacific bases

-- The Hill: Peter Strzok: Trump is 'compromised' on national security

-- The Hill: At least 37M people displaced by war on terror: researchers

– The Hill:US soldier seriously injured in car bomb in Somalia, official says

– The Hill: Navajo Nation joins in calls for investigation into Fort Hood deaths

– The Hill: Navy searching for sailor who went missing in North Arabian Sea

– The Hill: Trump lashes out at 'slimeball reporter' amid furor over alleged war dead remarks

– The Hill: Capt. 'Sully' Sullenberger slams reported Trump comments on war dead: 'No respect for the office he holds'

-- The Hill: Opinion: When 'Buy American' and common sense collide