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Overnight Defense: Army moves to combat sexual crimes | Eight West Point cadets expelled | Democratic senators want to restrict F-35 sale to UAE

Overnight Defense: Army moves to combat sexual crimes | Eight West Point cadets expelled | Democratic senators want to restrict F-35 sale to UAE
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Happy Friday 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: The Army on Friday announced several new actions meant to combat sexual harassment and violence at Fort Hood, Texas, and across the service.

The move would implement some of the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC), which last year produced a damning report highlighting a climate of widespread sexual misconduct at the base following the April 2020 death of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen.

A grim anniversary: The recommendations to go into effect address concerns at Fort Hood, the base’s III Corps, Army Forces Command, as well as across the Army. They come nearly a year after Guillen was believed to have been bludgeoned to death by fellow Fort Hood soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson.

The body of Guillen — whose sister said she told her she was being sexually harassed but did not report it out of fear of retaliation — was discovered in late June, sparking a call to look into Fort Hood’s command climate and changes to how the Army addresses sexual crimes.   

Following the report’s release, 14 leaders at Fort Hood were relieved of duty or suspended from their positions.

The recommendations: In all, the Army has implemented five recommendations across the force, while Fort Hood, III Corps, and Army Forces Command have implemented an additional 16. The FHIRC report, released on Dec. 8, included 70 recommendations.

The biggest moves: Among the biggest changes, the Army is restructuring the its Criminal Investigation Command, referred to as CID, and redesigning the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program “to address shortcomings identified in the FHIRC report,” according to a service statement.

In the committee report, the Fort Hood CID was found to have a workforce that “was unstable, under-experienced, over-assigned and underresourced leading to inefficiencies that had an adverse impact on investigations, especially complex cases involving sex crimes and Soldier deaths.”

The Army now says the Fort Hood CID detachment “is fully manned with experienced agents and the office also has access to state-of-the-art software and digital-forensic-examination tools.”

Additional actions: In addition, the Army announced several new initiatives to “achieve transformational cultural change,” including the This is My Squad and the Command Assessment Program, meant to “ensure that only exemplary leaders are placed into critical positions of trust and responsibility,” according to the service statement.

The People First Task Force is also “developing multiple plans to address FHIRC recommendations for combating sexual harassment, sexual assault, violent crime, and other harmful behaviors that exist in our ranks across the Army.”

Read more here.

 

WEST POINT DOLES OUT PUNISHMENTS IN CHEATING SCANDAL

Eight West Point cadets have been expelled while 51 others must repeat a year of school over the academy’s biggest cheating scandal in more than 40 years.

The military school is also ending its policy that allows students who violate its honor code to stay at the academy if they admit fault and accept punishment, a program known as the Willful Admission Process.

The details: Most of the cadets caught cheating on an online freshman calculus exam in May had enrolled in the program, which was found in a review not to have increased self-reporting of cheating.

The cheating took place while West Point students were studying remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Breaking down the numbers: The school’s instructors initially raised accusations against 73 cadets, including 72 first-year cadets and one second-year, but two cases were dismissed due to a lack of evidence, four cadets were acquitted by a board of their peers and six cases were dismissed because the cadets resigned.

Of the 61 cadets found guilty, 51 have to redo one full year, and two have to redo six months.

In total, 52 cadets, or more than half of those caught cheating, were athletes, the majority on the football team, USA Today reported.

Fifty-five of the cadets had enrolled in the Willful Admissions Process, which has them write journals and essays, calls on them to pair with a mentor and enroll in other programs.

The cadets who are allowed to stay at West Point are on probation for the rest of their time at the school.

Read more here.

 

 

DEMOCRAT SENATORS SEEK TO CONSTRAIN F-35 SALE TO UAE

A pair of Democratic senators introduced a bill Friday aimed at restricting the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates after the Biden administration announced it is moving ahead with the Trump-era deal.

“I remain concerned with the implications of a sale of our most advanced fighter jet given numerous outstanding, unanswered questions about the implications of this sale for U.S. national security, our technology interests, and implications for regional stability including the legal parameters of Israel’s qualitative military edge,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezJuan Williams: A breakthrough on immigration? Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 Bottom line MORE (D-N.J.) said in a statement Friday.

Who backed the bill: Menendez introduced the bill with Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports MORE (D-Calif.).

The same pair introduced a similar bill last year as the Trump administration negotiated the deal to sell F-35s to the UAE as part of Abu Dhabi agreeing to normalize relations with Israel.

In its final days, the Trump administration approved selling 50 F-35 fighter jets worth $10.4 billion to the UAE, as well as 18 MQ-9B drones worth $2.97 billion and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions worth $10 billion.

The background: Shortly after taking office, President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE paused the sale to review it. But this week, the State Department said it has decided to move forward with the arms package, arguing it will be years before the weapons are delivered and therefore there will be enough time to address outstanding concerns.

Biden is proceeding with the sale despite most senators from his party voting against it last year.

Opponents of the sale cite concerns about the UAE’s conduct in Yemen and Libya and its relationship with China and Russia, as well as ones about maintaining Israel’s military superiority in the region.

What the bill would do: Menendez and Feinstein’s bill would require the president to make certifications before F-35s are delivered to any Middle East country besides Israel, including certifying that Israel’s qualitative military edge won’t be undermined, that the United States has put in place technology security measures and that the country getting the jets has not given U.S.-made arms to adversaries of the United States or Israel.

The bill would also require annual certifications for 10 years that the technology security measures continue; that the country that got the jets has not engaged in military, paramilitary or intelligence operations that threaten U.S. or Israeli security; and that the country has not committed or enabled human rights violations.

It also mandates that the administration report to Congress on any threats to U.S. security that could arise from selling the F-35 to countries that are not NATO members or Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea or New Zealand.

Read more here.

 

ICYMI

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-- The Hill: Russia blocks key Biden Cabinet officials from entering in retaliation for sanctions

-- The Hill: Pentagon confirms legitimacy of Navy pilot's unidentified aerial phenomena video

-- Reuters: U.S. preliminary plan on Afghanistan is to remove at least some contractors -Pentagon

-- Military Times: Afghanistan war cost more than $2T and 240,000 lives, report finds