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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 PetersRepublican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff MORE (D-Mich.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE (R-N.C.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanTrump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (R-Alaska).

The leaders of the committee -- Chairman Jim 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 ranking member Jack ReedJack ReedTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up 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 ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' 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 McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' 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 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.), Mike RoundsMike RoundsDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software MORE (R-S.D.) and 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) won reelection.

In the House: Over in the House Armed Services Committee, Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe pandemic and a 'rainy day fund' for American charity House Democrat accuses Air Force of attempting to influence Georgia runoff races US national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration 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 HornWhat should Biden do with NASA and the Artemis Program? Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day MORE (Okla.) and Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), lost to their Republican challengers.

Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinBickering Democrats return with divisions Questions swirl at Pentagon after wave of departures Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (Mich.), another frontline Democrat on the committee, pulled out a win to keep her seat. 

Freshman committee Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaChamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night 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 Luria holds onto Virginia House seat MORE (D-Va.) also won a second term

On the Republican side, Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerDemocratic lawmakers lambast Trump over Esper firing as GOP remains mum 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 Turner fends off Democratic challenge in Ohio 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 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’s, won his race as expected to fill the seat being vacated by retiring 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 (R-Texas), the ranking member of the committee.

In the presidential election: As noted above, the race between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays 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.”

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

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

ICYMI

-- 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