Overnight Defense

Overnight 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'

Happy Tuesday 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: A U.S. Navy sailor shot and wounded two fellow sailors in Maryland on Tuesday before being killed by police.

Authorities identified the alleged gunman as Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet, a 38-year-old Navy hospital corpsman.

What happened: Police said Woldesenbet allegedly shot two sailors at a "military institution" at a business park in Federick, Md. Police were called to that scene at about 8:20 a.m.

Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference the shooter used a rifle, but did not elaborate on the weapon. 

The gunman then drove to the Army's nearby Fort Detrick, arriving at about 8:45 a.m. He was stopped at the base's gates based on an alert police had already issued to be on the lookout for the suspect, Army Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, the base's commander, said at the news conference. But he drove off before his car could be searched, Talley said.

The gunman made it about half a mile onto the base before he was stopped, got out of the car, brandished a weapon and was fatally shot by police, Talley said.

Woldesenbet did not live on Fort Detrick, police said. But he was assigned to the base, as are the two victims, Talley said.

Victims' conditions: The Navy said later Tuesday that one of the sailors who was shot has been released from the hospital. The other victim remains in critical condition, the Navy tweeted.

"We send our deepest condolences to all affected by this terrible act of violence and will continue to support the investigation," the Navy tweeted.

Investigation ongoing: Talley and Lando said the shooter's motive is still under investigation, as is whether he had any connection to the victims.

The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service are helping the Frederick Police Department with the investigation, Lando said.

Read more here.

 

HOUSE DEMS PUSH BIDEN ON 1033 PROGRAM

Democrats are upping pressure on President Biden to issue an executive order banning the transfer of military-grade weapons to local police departments.

The latest salvo came Tuesday in the form of a letter to Biden from more than two dozen House Democrats, who argued an executive order is "a reasonable step towards demilitarizing our police forces while preserving the safety of our communities."

"Decades of militarization of our nation's law enforcement have led to some police departments looking more like an occupying army than a community-based regulatory arm of state and local government," the 29 Democrats wrote in the letter, a draft of which was obtained by The Hill ahead of its release.

"Our neighborhoods need to be protected, including from dangers posed by the militarization of police," added the lawmakers, who were led by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). "This reasonable step falls squarely within your executive authority as president of the United States."

The specifics: The letter specifically asks Biden to issue an executive order mirroring language in a bill Johnson introduced last month.

Johnson's bill would place broad restrictions on what's known as the 1033 program, which allows the Pentagon to transfer excess military equipment to U.S. police departments.

The bill would prohibit the Pentagon from sending police departments controlled firearms, ammunition, bayonets, grenade launchers, grenades including stun and flash-bang grenades, explosives, certain controlled vehicles including mine-resistant vehicles, armored or weaponized drones, combat-configured or combat-coded aircraft, silencers and long-range acoustic devices.

What will Biden do?: Biden had been expected to reimpose Obama-era limits on the program as one of the dozens of executive orders he issued in the first weeks of his presidency, but no such directive materialized.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the idea of an executive order mirroring Johnson's bill or whether the president still plans to reimpose the Obama-era limits.

More to come: In addition to the letter and Johnson's bill, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce a bill next week that would completely repeal the 1033 program, according to a draft of the bill obtained by The Hill.

Read more here.

 

FIRST IRAN DEAL MEETINGS 'CONSTRUCTIVE'

"Constructive" was the word of the day after Tuesday's meetings in Vienna to bring Iran and the United States back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Enrique Mora, the European Union's coordinator for the talks, tweeted after the meeting with Iran that it was a "constructive Joint Commission meeting."

"There's unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting," he added. "As Coordinator I will intensify separate contacts here in Vienna with all relevant parties, including US."

What Iran said: Iran's chief negotiator similarly described Tuesday's meeting as "constructive."

"The talks in Vienna were constructive ... our next meeting will be on Friday," Abbas Araqchi said on Iranian state television, according to Reuters.

What the US said: The talks were indirect, meaning Iran and the United States weren't in the room with each other.

But the State Department agreed with the characterization that Tuesday's first meetings were constructive.

"It is a welcome step, it is a constructive step, it is a potentially useful step," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing.

The goal: The meetings in Vienna, where European, Russian and Chinese signatories to the deal are expected to shuttle between the U.S. and Iranian negotiators, are expected to establish a roadmap of "mutual compliance."

"The short hand is compliance for compliance," Price said. "There are obviously many more complexities involved in that but that will be the task ahead for our partners, the Europeans, as well as Russians and Chinese, in their talks with the Iranians going forward."

Read more here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday will participate in a virtual fireside chat with the Center for a New American Security at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2Q3fpU5

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other former officials will speak at an Atlantic Council event on "Preventing nuclear proliferation and reassuring America's allies" at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/39KkEik

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Air Force hypersonic missile test fails to launch from B-52

-- The Hill: Human testing underway for COVID-19 vaccine developed by Army

-- The Hill: Cross-partisan groups urge Biden to stick with May 1 Afghanistan withdrawal

-- The Hill: 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack

-- The Hill: Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump

-- New York Times: Democrats push biden to take harder line on Saudi Arabia

-- Washington Post: Marines launch new investigation after disaster that killed nine troops

-- New York Times: Modern crime-solving methods vs. the mystery of World War II deaths

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