Overnight Defense: Report urges sweeping changes to Capitol security | Biden touts female general nominees on International Women's Day | US stands by Saudis after 'heinous' Houthi attacks

Overnight Defense: Report urges sweeping changes to Capitol security | Biden touts female general nominees on International Women's Day | US stands by Saudis after 'heinous' Houthi attacks
© Getty Images

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: Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré briefed lawmakers Monday on the findings of his review into security at the Capitol following the Jan. 6 attack.

The report, authored by a team of experts led by Honoré, urges sweeping changes, including a few that could be of interest to defense watchers.

Requesting the Guard: One key proposal is to empower the chief of the Capitol Police with the sole authority to summon the help of the National Guard and other reinforcements in the case of emergencies.

Currently, the other members of the Capitol Police Board, including the sergeants-at-arms in both chambers, must sign off on any such decision — a structure that’s been blamed for the hours-long delay in deploying Guard troops on Jan. 6. 

A QRF for DC: Another recommendation that could have implications for the military is the creation of a quick reaction force dedicated to Washington, D.C. to respond to crises. The report offers three options for staffing that force, two of which involve the National Guard.

One option would be to use federal law enforcement agencies to staff, train and equip the quick reaction force. Another would be to build it under the command of the D.C. National Guard using National Guard military police from around the country on three- to six-month rotations. The third option would be to use Guardsmen who live in or near Washington on a year-round, perpetually active-duty status.

Clarifying DOD rules: In addition to recommending it be easier for the Capitol Police chief to ask for National Guard help, the report also recommends the Pentagon clarify the D.C. National Guard’s emergency authorities.

Specifically, the report recommends the Pentagon makes clear the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard retains “emergency authority,” as defined in a Defense Department directive, to temporarily mobilize without the president’s approval in “extraordinary emergency circumstances.”

BIDEN TOUTS FEMALE GENERALS ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

If you missed it over the weekend, President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE nominated two female generals to lead combatant commands.

Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, currently commander of the Air Mobility Command, was nominated to lead U.S. Transportation Command. 

And Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, currently commanding general of U.S. Army North, was nominated to lead U.S. Southern Command.

Both nominations were reportedly held back last year by former Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back Former defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Major Russia weapons test stokes tensions MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyJournalist Robert Costa leaving Washington Post for CBS News The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation MORE for fear that former President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE would reject them because they are women.

On Monday, Biden used the opportunity of International Women’s Day to celebrate their achievements.

“Each of these women have led careers demonstrating incomparable skill, integrity and duty to country,” he said. “At every step. they’ve also helped push open the doors of opportunity to women in our military.”

Biden said it was imperative to “shine the light” on their accomplishments in order to demonstrate to new female service members what is possible.

Combating sexual assault: Biden also used Monday’s ceremony to pledge to "end the scourge of sexual assault" in the military.

“We have to take on sexual assault and harassment and violence against women in the military,” the president said in remarks at the White House. “Sexual assault is abhorrent and wrong at any time, and in our military so much of unit cohesion is built on trusting your fellow servicemembers to have your back. There’s nothing less than a threat to our national security.”

“This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck effort under my administration to end the scourge of sexual assault in the military,” Biden continued. “And we’re going to be focused on that from the very top.”

Other nominations: While Van Ovost and Richardson got a White House ceremony Monday, they weren’t the only nominees the Defense Department announced over the weekend.

The Pentagon also announced that Biden has nominated Adm. John Aquilino to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the military command that plays a leading role in competition with China. Aquilino currently commands U.S. Pacific Fleet.

To take over for Aquilino at Pacific Fleet, Biden nominated Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, who currently is the commander of U.S. 5th Fleet in the Middle East.

US CONDEMNS ‘HEINOUS’ HOUTHI ATTACKS

The United States on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s defense in the face of increased drone and missile attacks by Iran-backed Houthi separatists in Yemen, underscoring American commitment to its Gulf ally despite human rights concerns.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted in Arabic that its commitment to defending the Kingdom’s security is “unwavering,” following a rising number of back and forth attacks between Riyadh and the Houthis, the latest targeting Saudi oil facilities.

“The US Embassy condemns the recent Houthi attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The heinous Houthi attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure demonstrate their lack of respect for human life and their interest in the pursuit of peace,” the embassy tweeted.  

Background: Houthi rebels, who control Yemen’s north after six years of civil war, reportedly claimed responsibility on Sunday for a drone and ballistic missile attack that targeted Ras Tanura, a refinery site and the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility, as well as a residential compound in Dhahran used by Saudi state-controlled oil company Saudi Aramco. 

At the White House: Press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said the Biden administration is “alarmed by the frequency of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia” and looking for ways to support Riyadh’s ability to defend itself. 

“As a part of our interagency process, we’ll look for ways to improve support for Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend its territory against threats,” she said. 

At the Pentagon: Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby further condemned the Houthi attack, which also targeted the southwest Saudi city of Khamis Mushait and the coastal city of Jeddah. 

"These attacks are unacceptable and dangerous, they put the lives of civilians at risk including U.S. citizens," Kirby said. "We remain deeply concerned by the frequency of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia. Attacks like these are not the actions of a group that is serious about peace. We continue to maintain there’s no military solution to end the conflict in Yemen. We want the Houthis to demonstrate their willingness to engage in the political process, stop attacking, start negotiating.”

NEW MEMBER OF CONFEDERATE RENAMING COMMISSION

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHillicon Valley — Shutterfly gets hacked Biden signs 8 billion defense bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Democrats spar over military justice reform MORE’s (D-Wash.) first choice to serve on the commission figuring out how to rename Confederate-named military bases, Lonnie Bunch, had to withdraw for personal reasons, so Smith announced a new choice Monday.

Smith has chosen Lawrence Romo, currently national commander of the American G.I. Forum, a civil rights organization that has been serving Hispanic veterans since its founding in 1948. Romo, an Air Force veteran, previously served as the head of the Selective Service System during the Obama administration.

“As the commission begins its work, it is critically important that its members represent the diversity of our great country,” Smith said in a statement. “Mr. Romo’s long track record of service — both in the United States Air Force and as director of the Selective Service System in the Obama administration — give Mr. Romo the deep experience and perspective required. I am glad he has accepted the appointment and appreciate his willingness to serve.”

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3cbl81v

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Lawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons

-- The Hill: Pentagon: No plan to change food vendor contracts for National Guard at Capitol

-- The Hill: Korean War chaplain's remains identified after 70 years in US military cemetery

-- The Hill: US, South Korea scaling back military drills

-- The Hill: US proposes interim power-sharing deal between Taliban, Afghan government: report

-- The Hill: US, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops

-- The Hill: Opinion: To win the climate battle, we need the intelligence community

-- The Hill: Opinion: Mr. President, please don't miss another chance to end the Afghanistan debacle

-- New York Times: In one Afghan district, peace from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

-- Bloomberg: Fewer defense companies in military spending boom raise alarms

-- Military.com: The military is resuming the diversity training that Trump banned

-- Defense News: Recent Guard UH-60 crashes do not indicate systemic problem, Army official says