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

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
© Greg Nash

Happy Wednesday 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: The presidential race is still too close to call, as are several hotly contested Senate races.

For defense watchers, those Senate races include several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee: Sens. Gary PetersGary PetersSenior Biden cyber nominees sail through Senate hearing Colonial Pipeline may use recovered ransomware attack funds to boost cybersecurity OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE (D-Mich.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 MORE (R-N.C.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit US, Taiwan to discuss trade, investments, Blinken says MORE (R-Alaska).

The leaders of the committee -- Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Citizens' Climate Lobby - Biden floats infrastructure, tax concessions to GOP Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (R-Okla.) and ranking member Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Biden taps tech CEO, former destroyer commander to lead Navy Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' MORE (D-R.I.) -- easily won reelection as expected.

If the Democrats win control of the Senate, Inhofe and Reed would switch job titles. But that is looking increasingly unlikely after Democrats failed to flip several seats they were targeting.

Among those Democrats didn’t flip was committee member Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (R-Iowa), who emerged victorious against Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.

One seat Democrats are poised to pick up is committee member Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMcGuire unveils Arizona Senate campaign On The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly welcome first grandchild MORE’s (R-Ariz.). The Associated Press and other outlets called the race for Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, a retired Navy captain and astronaut, but McSally has not yet conceded.

As expected, Democratic committee member Doug Jones (Ala.) lost to Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville.

Committee members Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Media continues to lionize Anthony Fauci, despite his damning emails MORE (R-Ark.), Mike RoundsMike RoundsTrump, midterms fuel GOP's effort to quash Jan. 6 commission Senate GOP blocks legislation on Jan. 6 commission Senate votes to advance China bill after Schumer strikes deal MORE (R-S.D.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-N.H) won reelection.

In the House: Over in the House Armed Services Committee, Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Congress must stop the march toward war with China Pelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative MORE (D-Wash.) easily defeated his Republican opponent in his safely blue district.

Meanwhile, a couple vulnerable Democratic freshmen committee members, Reps. Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornWhy does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? The US's investment in AI is lagging, we have a chance to double it What should Biden do with NASA and the Artemis Program? MORE (Okla.) and Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), lost to their Republican challengers.

Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinDemocrats seize on GOP opposition to Jan. 6 commission Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge Facebook to abandon 'Instagram for kids' plan | 'Homework gap' likely to persist after pandemic Legislation to secure critical systems against cyberattacks moves forward in the House MORE (Mich.), another frontline Democrat on the committee, pulled out a win to keep her seat. 

Freshman committee Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats Virginia attorney general survives primary challenge McAuliffe looms large as Virginia Democrats pick governor nominee MORE (D-Va.) also won a second term

On the Republican side, Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerJ.D. Vance emerges as wild card in Ohio GOP Senate primary Senate Armed Services chair throws support behind changing roles of military commanders in sexual assault prosecutions Gillibrand: 'I definitely want to run for president again' MORE (Ohio) won reelection after one of his toughest races yet. 

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) also won reelection after a hotly contested race.

Former White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who has become a very close ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE’s, won his race as expected to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas), the ranking member of the committee.

In the presidential election: As noted above, the race between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE is still too close to call.

That is putting a spotlight on the absentee ballots cast by members of the military that have yet to be counted.

Tens of thousands of military ballots are likely among those that still need to be counted in key swing states.

In Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Nevada, pivotal states that have yet to be called, absentee ballots from military and overseas voters can arrive until next week, while such ballots can arrive in uncalled Georgia until Friday.

While it’s unclear exactly how many military ballots are outstanding in all of those states, four years ago, those voters sent mail-in ballots by the thousands.

“We won't know the exact number of ballots outstanding, but past elections show the importance of counting these votes,” said Jack Noland, research manager at Count Every Hero, an organization focused on ensuring military ballots are counted.

“An important caveat is that we can't know for certain, but I think it goes without saying that if the race becomes particularly tight these ballots could be vital,” he added in an email. “This year — especially because of the impacts of COVID-19 — the integrity of the election rests on mail-in votes, including ballots from members of the military, being validated and counted. We must count every ballot.”

NINTH MILITARY COVID DEATH: While it can seem like the election is the only story right now, other news marches on.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, with a grim reminder of it Wednesday as the Pentagon reported a ninth service member death.

The death was noted in Wednesday’s update of the online chart the Pentagon maintains of COVID-19 cases connected to the department.

Spokespeople at the Pentagon and National Guard Bureau said the service member was a Texas Air National Guardsman. A spokesperson for the Texas National Guard could not immediately provide more information about the individual.

The death is the third guardsman. Five others have been reservists, and one has been an active-duty service member.

Broader numbers: In total, the Pentagon has reported 86,735 cases of COVID-19 connected to the department, according to Wednesday’s figures.

That includes 58,968 cases among service members, 39,012 of whom have recovered and 755 of whom have been hospitalized over the course of the pandemic.

There have also been 13,714 cases among civilians, 8,597 cases among dependents and 5,456 cases among contractors. There have been 68 civilian deaths, eight dependent deaths and 26 contractor deaths, according to Wednesday’s chart.

COAST GUARD SEES RISE IN SEXUAL ASSAULT REPORTS: Reports of sexual assault are on the rise in the U.S. Coast Guard, according to newly released reports to Congress.

Since 2007 the Coast Guard has struggled with a consistent increase in reported sexual assaults, show internal annual reports posted online this week.

While the number of reported sexual assaults decreased from 248 in fiscal 2018 to 225 in fiscal 2019, sexual harassment allegations rose from 57 to 89 in the same period, according to the fiscal 2019 report.

The reports do not give a reason for the rise, though Coast Guard leaders have said in the past that it could be an indication that more people are willing to come forward due to greater confidence in the reporting system and victim support.

“The Coast Guard has developed a more nuanced approach to addressing Sexual Assault in coordination with the Department of Defense and external agencies,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in the report. “The Coast Guard continues to center the lot of its efforts within the Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery program on prevention and recovery assistance.”


Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, will speak at the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium 365 at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/362UBjP


-- The Hill: China pledges 'proper and necessary response' to new US arms sale to Taiwan

-- The Hill: Pentagon watchdog replacing audit of bias with probe of Trump order banning diversity training

-- The Hill: Pentagon to open school focused on stopping drone threats

-- The Hill: Wisconsin National Guard helping transfer data from misprinted ballots

-- The Hill: Voters in three states pass ballot measures aimed at veterans, spouses

-- Foreign Policy: Democrats projected to win House, but lose some key foreign-policy races

-- Washington Post: Coronavirus opens a stark divide in America’s aerospace industry

-- New York Times: South Korea detains North Korean who crossed demilitarized zone