Overnight Defense: Government funding bill butts up against deadline | Pentagon reports eighth military COVID-19 death | Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push

Overnight Defense: Government funding bill butts up against deadline | Pentagon reports eighth military COVID-19 death | Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push
© 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: This week is the deadline to fund the government.

The Senate is scheduled to return Tuesday night, at which point it is expected to take a procedural vote on the continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open through Dec. 11.

That sets the CR up to be passed Wednesday, unless Democrats agree to speed up the vote.

The bill is expected to easily clear the chamber, but the timing means there’ll be just a few hours of wiggle room before current government funding expires after Wednesday.

You’ll recall the CR easily passed the House last week.

Senate dysfunction: Speaking of the Senate, over the weekend The Hill’s Jordain Carney looked at how the chamber is being pushed to the brink.

The burgeoning fight to fill Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Mitt Romney did not vote for Trump in 2020 election The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett MORE's Supreme Court seat is pouring fuel onto already simmering tensions in the Senate and threatening to fundamentally reshape the institution.

Senators in both parties acknowledge the level of dysfunction in a chamber where the bulk of their time is spent processing nominations amid failures to break stalemates on pressing national issues such as coronavirus relief.

On the CR, Democrats are forcing the chamber to return this week, keeping vulnerable GOP senators off the campaign trail instead of wrapping up their preelection work last week as Republicans had hoped. Democrats are also facing pressure to try to prevent the Senate from leaving and require that Republicans show they have a quorum of 51 senators needed to do business.

EIGHTH COVID DEATH: An eighth U.S. service member has been killed by the coronavirus, according to Pentagon data released Monday.

The death was included in Monday’s update of the chart the Pentagon keeps on its website of numbers of COVID-19 cases connected to the department.

More information on the death was not immediately available, and a Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By the numbers: In total, the Pentagon has reported 65,657 cases of COVID-19 connected to the department, according to Monday’s figures.

That includes 45,246 cases among service members, 30,450 of whom have recovered and 613 of whom have been hospitalized over the course of the pandemic.

There have also been 10,109 cases among civilians, 6,034 cases among dependents and 4,268 cases among contractors. There have been 59 civilian deaths, seven dependent deaths and 22 contractor deaths, according to Monday’s chart.

TRUMP, PENTAGON COLLIDE ON DIVERSITY TRAINING: Over the weekend, we took a look at how President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE's efforts to appeal to his conservative base by banning certain diversity training is butting up against the Pentagon’s efforts to build a more inclusive military.

The conflict came to the forefront recently when Trump signed an executive order that extended his administration's ban on training involving race- and sex-based discrimination to include the military, federal contractors and grant recipients.

Days later, top Pentagon officials were extolling the virtues of diversity to service members at a virtual town hall and touting the department’s efforts to fight racial bias.

It’s unclear exactly what effect Trump’s order will have on the military’s plans to address racism and discrimination in the ranks, but the messaging coming from the White House and the Pentagon stand in stark contrast to one another.

“The president of the United States is sending the message that training around racial equity and gender equity is something that he devalues,” said Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is leading a lawsuit against Trump’s transgender military ban.

What Trump did: Last week, Trump signed an executive order barring the military, federal contractors and federal grant recipients from teaching “divisive concepts,” such as the idea that one race or sex is superior, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, that any individual should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or physiological distress because of their race or sex or that an individual bears responsibility for past actions by others of the same race or sex.

The U.S. Armed Forces “shall not teach, instruct or train any member of the United States Uniformed Services, whether serving on active duty, serving on reserve duty, attending a military service academy, or attending courses conducted by a military department pursuant to a Reserve Officer Corps Training program, to believe any of the divisive concepts” defined in the order, it says.

“No member of the United States Uniformed Services shall face any penalty or discrimination on account of his or her refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon or otherwise assent to these concepts,” the order adds.

The order expands on a memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) earlier this month that ordered federal agencies to cancel programs that discuss “white privilege” or “critical race theory.” The latter concept teaches that racism and racial inequality are a result of systemic power structures.

The measures are part of a trend of Trump attempting to stoke cultural issues along lines of race that appeal to his socially conservative base.

It comes as polls show Trump faring worse than he did in 2016 with white voters, who carried him to victory that cycle over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE, even as he shows some improvement in polls with Black and Hispanic voters.

What the Pentagon’s doing: In July, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Democratic House chairman trusts Pentagon won't follow 'unlawful orders' on election involvement Top military officers cleared to return to Pentagon after quarantine MORE issued a memo that, among other things, called for the department to “develop educational requirements for implementation across the military lifecycle to educate the force on unconscious bias.”

The Pentagon had no specifics to provide when asked what effects the executive order would have on its plans for unconscious bias training or any of its other recent diversity initiatives.

"Of course DoD is bound to comply with all executive orders. It would be premature to discuss specific actions at this time," spokesperson Maj. César Santiago said in an email to The Hill.

The Army, for its part, said it did not think the order would affect its diversity training since the service was not planning on teaching critical race theory.

“We wouldn’t have been going down the critical theory road anyway,” Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, told reporters on a conference call about the Army’s “Project Inclusion” effort. “It would not have aligned with our fundamental strategy and so, no, it’s not a concern for us.”

Wardynski also called critical race theory "at odds with the Constitution" because it is "advocating putting one group ahead of another group."

The Air Force, though, has taken initial steps to cancel contracts that do not comply with the OMB memo, according to Air Force Times.

Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told The Hill the service is “reviewing” material to see if it complies with the OMB memo.

“The Department of the Air Force continues to provide unconscious bias training in accordance with Department of Defense directives and is reviewing all course material to ensure it is compliant with the OMB memorandum,” she said in an email.


The Council on Foreign Relations will host a virtual conversation with United Arab Emirates foreign minister Anwar Gargash at 9 a.m. https://on.cfr.org/2S6xtKF

Ellen Lord, under secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, will provide a keynote speech at day one of the ComDef 2020 virtual conference starting at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/2S80wO8

Former national security advisor H.R. McMaster will participate in a Washington Post Live event at 11 a.m. wapo.st/hrmcmaster


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