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Overnight Defense: Top House Armed Services Republican talks National Guard at Capitol, Afghanistan, more | Pentagon chief visits Afghanistan amid administration's review | Saudis propose Yemen ceasefire

Overnight Defense: Top House Armed Services Republican talks National Guard at Capitol, Afghanistan, more | Pentagon chief visits Afghanistan amid administration's review | Saudis propose Yemen ceasefire
© 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: Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersFive questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan Congress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (R-Ala.) sat down Monday for a (virtual) reporters’ roundtable for the first time since becoming the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member.

During the conversation, Rogers said he would support creating a quick reaction force of National Guardsmen to respond to emergencies at the Capitol.

The idea of creating a dedicated quick reaction force, potentially composed of either National Guardsmen or law enforcement officers for Washington, D.C., was one of the recommendations made in a security review led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Rogers reiterated Monday that he think it's time for the National Guard to leave the Capitol. But he also told reporters he would support Honoré’s recommendation for a quick reaction force stationed off the Capitol complex.

“One of the things they would like to see is a rapid response National Guard unit, which I'm fine with being remote from the campus. And I would support that, but that's about as close as we need as having guardsmen around the Capitol,” Rogers said.

“So I'm going to be anxious to see where they land on this issue with the guardsmen for a more long-term solution,” he added. “I hope it's with this rapid response force that I just described with a full time, D.C. contingent that is off campus that can be called on when needed, and they can be there in a matter of minutes. But we don't need them standing around like they are right now toting rifles.”

On Afghanistan: Rogers also suggested that the fact President BidenJoe BidenWarren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas UN secretary general 'deeply disturbed' by Israeli strike on high rise that housed media outlets Nation's largest nurses union condemns new CDC guidance on masks MORE has yet to make a decision on whether to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1 indicates he won’t follow that timeline.

“I’m of the opinion that physically, if they wanted to leave by May 1, It's not possible now for us to leave and get out of there in a safe manner and bring the things home that we have over there,” he said. “So I think by inaction, they've made it clear they're not going to be out [of] there by May 1.”

Still, he said there was no indication about which way the administration is leaning at a recent classified briefing.

“We got a briefing about a week ago, a classified briefing, on Afghanistan, and I don't know where the administration is going to come down on this, and frankly they said they didn't know either,” he said. “They're still talking with the Taliban. And to their credit, they acknowledge the Taliban hadn't held up their end of the bargain so far.”

On the budget: Rogers also reiterated his top priority on the committee right now is the administration’s upcoming budget request.

“That is my number one, number two and number three priority,” he said.

Rogers and other committee Republicans have been urging Biden to boost the defense funding by 3 to 5 percent amid expectations the president will request an essentially flat defense budget.

Rogers made the argument that if Democrats can support the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which he and every other Republican voted against, “they can afford a 3 to 5 percent increase in defense spending.”

On nukes: Rogers predicted that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot MORE would advise Biden to move forward with the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the intercontinental ballistic missile replacement program often targeted by Democrats looking to make nuclear cuts.

Rogers also predicted committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithGOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault US is leaving, but Afghan women to fight on for freedoms Overnight Defense: Ex-Pentagon chief defends Capitol attack response as GOP downplays violence | Austin, Biden confer with Israeli counterparts amid conflict with Hamas | Lawmakers press Pentagon officials on visas for Afghan partners MORE (D-Wash.) would again try to scrap the program, but would again fail.

“I know he won't have any votes on our side,” Rogers said. “Most of the Democratic members are going to be with us on this, too, so I have confidence that the GBSD is going to move forward.”

Rogers further predicted Republicans would “hold the line” against Democratic efforts to kill a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.

On Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonChina fires back after NASA criticism of rocket debris reentry The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns NASA criticizes China after rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean MORE: As a congressman, Rogers does not get a vote on Biden’s nominees. But he told reporters how he would vote on Biden’s choice to lead NASA, former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), if he were a senator.

“I'm not a big fan of Bill Nelson, so if I was in the Senate, I wouldn't confirm him,” Rogers said.

OVER THE WEEKEND — AUSTIN VISITS AFGHANISTAN

Speaking of that impending deadline in Afghanistan, Austin made an unannounced visit to the country over the weekend.

Austin tacked on the stop Sunday after his trip in Asia. While in Afghanistan, Austin spoke with President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson and Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in the country.

Listen up: Speaking to reporters Sunday, Austin said the purpose of the trip was not to convey a message to Ghani, but rather to listen.

“I didn't carry a message or convey a message to the president,” Austin said. “Again, I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were, see the landscape through his eyes.”

He was also careful not to step on Biden’s toes, saying troop numbers and withdrawal dates are the “domain of my boss,” but he reiterated that violence remains too high.

“It's obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country,” Austin said. We'd really like to see that violence come down. And I think if it does come down, it can begin to set the conditions for, you know, some really fruitful diplomatic work.”

SAUDIS PROPOSE YEMEN CEASEFIRE

Saudi Arabia offered Yemen’s Houthi rebels a cease-fire Monday as part of a plan that would also allow a major airport to reopen in Yemen’s capital.

“The Kingdom calls on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to accept the initiative, which gives the Houthis the opportunity to stop the bloodshed in Yemen, address the humanitarian and economic conditions that the brotherly Yemeni people are suffering from, and gives them the opportunity to become partners in achieving peace,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Under pressure: The new initiative comes amid stepped-up attacks by the Houthis against Saudi oil infrastructure, as well as increased pressure from the Biden administration on the Saudis to end what has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

After Saudi Arabia’s announcement Monday, the State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud about Yemen.

The pair spoke about support for efforts to “end the conflict in Yemen, starting with the need for all parties to commit to a cease-fire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid,” according to a State Department statement on the call.

The but: It’s unclear whether the Saudi plan will gain any traction. A unilateral Saudi cease-fire last year collapsed.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government welcomed the Saudi proposal in a statement from its Foreign Ministry.

But Houthi officials dismissed the plan as “nothing new” in statements to The Associated Press and Reuters.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Adm. John Aquilino to become commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/315iiGb

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the U.S. standing in international organizations with testimony from outside experts at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2Pj4ipH

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Samantha PowerSamantha PowerHow effective are USAID programs? USAID chief Samantha Power: Getting shots 'into arms' can restore US global leadership The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Trump, Cheney trade jabs MORE to be administration of the U.S. Agency for International Development at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3f6tIBQ

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing on “Reforming the War Powers Resolution for the 21st Century” with testimony from outside experts at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3lFZyGx

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Reclaiming Congressional War Powers” with testimony from outside experts at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/3sdVxvF

The House Appropriation Committee’s defense subpanel will hold a hearing on future defense spending with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/3cSQPNk

And coming up next week: Former Defense Secretaries Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Navy medic killed after wounding 2 sailors in Maryland shooting | Dems push Biden for limits on military gear transferred to police | First day of talks on Iran deal 'constructive' 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack Trump Afghan pullout deal unachievable, says ex-Pentagon leader MORE and Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesDomestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? States step in as Congress fails to fight foreign influence MORE, Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthBipartisan Senate bill introduced to give gyms B in relief Duckworth says food stamps let her stay in high school If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume MORE (D-Ill.), Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerIncreasingly active younger voters liberalize US electorate Sunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans Kinzinger: GOP downplaying Capitol riot something 'out of North Korea' MORE (R-Ill.), Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Michèle Flournoy will participate in The Hill's Future of Defense Summit at 12:30 p.m. March 29. RSVP today for event reminders. (https://futureofdefense.splashthat.com/)

ICYMI

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-- New York Times: In Kabul’s streets, dogs rule the night

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-- Stars and Stripes: Army rolls out combat fitness test 3.0 with leg-tuck alternative, different scoring tiers for males, females

-- Defense One: In Syria, US commanders hold the line — and wait for Biden