Overnight Defense: Tucker Carlson comments cause military rage | Capitol guard duty questioned | Vet who served in Marine One unit charged in insurrection
Happy Thursday 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: Tucker Carlson’s comments cause military, lawmaker rage
Senior military leaders are voicing support for women in the military after Fox News host Tucker Carlson complained on his show about recent changes meant to attract and retain more female service members.
“Women lead our most lethal units with character,” tweeted Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, the service’s top enlisted leader. “They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on. @TuckerCarlson’s words are divisive, don’t reflect our values. We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest [noncommissioned officer] Corps in the world.”
What was said: On Monday, President Biden marked International Women’s Day by touting the recent promotion of two female generals. In his speech, Biden also touched on efforts in recent years to better accommodate women in the military, including work to design maternity flight suits and updating grooming standards to allow for a wider range of hairstyles.
The next night, Carlson railed against those efforts.
“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military,” Carlson said.
“While China’s military becomes more masculine as it has assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become as Joe Biden says more feminine, whatever feminine means anymore,” he continued.
What Carlson left out: Carlson delivered the monologue next to a picture of an Air Force officer, who was wearing an artificial bump, modeling a flight suit designed for pregnant women.
The changes Carlson focused on were initiated during the Trump administration.
The Air Force has been working on buying maternity flight suits after announcing in 2019 that it would allow pilots to continue flying longer into their pregnancies without a waiver.
Meanwhile, in January, the Army unveiled new grooming standards that had been recommended in December, also under President Trump.
The Pentagon’s response: Asked about Carlson’s comments Thursday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby relayed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s “revulsion” at the segment.
“What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host, or the Chinese military, and maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove, that’s on them,” Kirby told reporters.
When asked about Carlson’s comments later on Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told reporters he is proud of the 185,000 women who “serve with distinction every day” in the service, adding that “it’s insulting to those women to have a comment like that.”
Lawmaker weighs in: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Thursday joined the chorus of people pushing back on Carlson’s comments.
“F— Tucker Carlson. While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women. Happy belated International Women’s Day to everyone but Tucker, who even I can dance better than,” Duckworth tweeted alongside a video of Carlson on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.
Duckworth is a former combat pilot in the Iraq War who lost both legs after her helicopter was downed.
Read further reaction here.
CAPITOL GUARD DUTY QUESTIONED
The leaders of the House Armed Services Committee from both parties called for a “measured drawdown” of National Guardsmen at the U.S. Capitol after the Pentagon extended the deployment for another two months.
In a joint statement Thursday, committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said they were “deeply troubled [that] the seat of our nation’s democracy remains heavily protected by guardsmen and surrounded by a perimeter fence” more than two months after the Jan. 6 attack that prompted the bulked up security.
“As the U.S. Capitol Police continues to build its personnel capacity, there is no doubt that some level of support from the National Guard should remain in the National Capital Region to respond to credible threats against the Capitol,” they said. “However, the present security posture is not warranted at this time.”
What prompted the comments: The statement comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this week approved a request from Capitol Police to keep about 2,300 guardsmen at the complex through May 23.
The deployment had been scheduled to end Friday. While the extension keeps troops at the Capitol for another two months, it roughly halves the 5,100 guardsmen there now.
The concerns: In their statement, Smith and Rogers express concerns about costs and readiness effects of the continued deployment.
“In addition, we cannot ignore the financial costs associated with this prolonged deployment, nor can we turn a blind eye to the effects it will soon have on the National Guard’s overall readiness,” they said. “We appreciate our guardsmen answering the call to protect the Capitol, but it’s time for us to review what level of security is required, so they can return home to their families and communities.”
The Pentagon has not provided a cost estimate for the extension, but previously said the cost through March 12 would be roughly $480 million.
Neither the Pentagon nor Capitol Police has detailed the threats warranting an extension into May. But the Pentagon has said Austin viewed the request as “valid” and that the National Guardsmen are meant to increase Capitol Police’s “capacity.”
VET WHO SERVED IN MARINE ONE UNIT CHARGED IN INSURRECTION
A veteran who was charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack once served in the unit responsible for maintaining and operating the president’s helicopter, known as Marine One, according to his service records.
John Daniel Andries, 35, of Piney Point, Md., was arrested and charged last month with two felonies in connection with the Capitol riot. He has pleaded not guilty.
His service history: Andries served in the Marines from 2004 to 2009, reaching the third enlisted rank of lance corporal, according to records released by the service.
His last assignment was as a crew chief for Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, also known as HMX-1, the unit responsible for transporting the president. A crew chief’s duties include aircraft maintenance.
His records include no combat deployments.
The charges: Andries is facing charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Citing videos posted on YouTube and obtained from Capitol Police, prosecutors allege Andries entered the Capitol building Jan. 6 through a broken window after the mob broke through the police perimeter outside.
Once in the building, Andries was allegedly seen among a crowd that attempted to “push past U.S. Capitol Police officers,” according to charging documents.
In the basement of the Capitol, Andries allegedly got “within inches” of police officers and waved his hands up and down in an apparent effort to egg on the crowd, but the charging document does not say he physically engaged the officers.
The bigger problem: The military has been grappling with extremism in the ranks since the Jan. 6 attack. The issue is longstanding, but the riot brought it to the forefront, particularly after a January analysis of court cases found nearly 20 percent of people arrested in connection with the insurrection had military histories.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Simone Ledeen will speak at a Middle East Institute virtual discussion on “U.S. policies toward the Middle East during the Trump administration and lessons learned,” at 9:30 a.m. https://www.mei.edu/events/mei-defense-leadership-series-episode-11-former-deputy-assistant-secretary-defense-middle?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20031121_03/11/2021&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393
Two House Armed Services subpanels will hold a joint hearing on “Final Recommendations of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence,” with commission Chairman Eric Schmidt, Vice Chairman Robert Work, and commissioner Gilman Louie, at 11 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings?ID=32A667CD-578C-4F65-9F4F-1E26EE8F389A&utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20031121_03/11/2021&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393
Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), and Jen Silva, chief program officer at the Wounded Warrior Project, will speak at a Brookings Institution webinar on “The Needs of Women Veterans,” at 2 p.m. https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-needs-of-women-veterans/?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20031121_03/11/2021&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393
— The Hill: Trump’s own Defense secretary says he was responsible for Capitol riot
— The Hill: Guardsman deployed to Capitol dies after medical emergency
— The Hill: Pentagon awards $160M in contracts to Musk’s SpaceX
— The Hill: Pentagon eyeing aircraft carrier reduction in budget request: report
— The Hill: Amnesty International: Myanmar military using battlefield weapons against demonstrators
— The Hill: Opinion: Our presence in Iraq remains a vital US national security interest
— The Hill: Opinion: The F-35 tells everything that’s broken in the Pentagon
— The Hill: Opinion: The road to recovery — rebuilding the US Capitol Police
— The New York Times: A Small Town and a Spray of Bullets in Myanmar
— The Associated Press: Biden’s deal with Seoul points to a swift shift on alliances
— Military Times: Support for making women register in the draft, but none for mandatory military service, commission says
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