Overnight Defense: Top general tells Howard cadets they will make military 'truly inclusive of all' | Pentagon tracking Chinese rocket tumbling to Earth | Poll finds two-thirds support for Afghanistan withdrawal

Overnight Defense: Top general tells Howard cadets they will make military 'truly inclusive of all' | Pentagon tracking Chinese rocket tumbling to Earth | Poll finds two-thirds support for Afghanistan withdrawal
© Greg Nash

Happy Wednesday 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: The U.S. military’s top general had a message for graduating ROTC cadets at Howard University on Wednesday: They will be a major part of institutional changes dealing with race in the military.

“It is your generation that can and will bring the joint force to be truly inclusive of all people,” Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks MORE, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the 21 cadets at the historically Black university in Washington, D.C.

“One of the key strengths of the American military is our diversity and fighting for a common cause and we must get better," he said. "Our force is almost 20 percent African American, it’s over 40 percent people of color. But only two of 41 four-star generals are Black. Opportunity in our military must be reflective of the diverse talent in order for us to stay strong.”

Underlining the oath: Milley also told the cadets the military oath they were about to take “will forever be your North Star, your home base in a storm. Your moral center. It will be your center of gravity.” 

“And you're going to be judged by the content of your character, not the color of your skin," he said. "That is the core organizing principle of the United States of America. That is the vision of our country, that is written into the Constitution. And that must always be our North Star, and our goal to form a more perfect union. That is why I wear the uniform. That is why you are wearing the uniform. That is why you are taking an oath, and that is why you will fight.”

Context: Milley’s comments come as the military is struggling to root out extremism from its ranks — a longstanding issue that came to the forefront after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in which several people arrested have military backgrounds.

On geopolitics: Milley also used his speech Wednesday to warn of “potential international instability” due to China’s rise as well as new ways to use artificial intelligence and robotics in warfare.

“We are entering a period of potential international instability,” Milley said.

“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States essentially was the unchallenged global military, political and economic power. With the rise of China, that is changing and changing fast,” he added.

Read more here.



An uncontrolled Chinese rocket is tumbling back down toward Earth, and the Pentagon is keeping a close eye on it.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that U.S. Space Command estimates the near fully intact Chinese Long March 5B will enter Earth's atmosphere somewhere around May 8.

He added that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure Biden to host Afghan president at White House on Friday Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans MORE is aware of the situation and is receiving updates.

Where will it land?: That’s the big, open question that is raising concerns lest it fall on land where there are people.

The rocket’s exact entry point into the atmosphere “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry,” Defense Department spokesperson Mike Howard said in a Tuesday statement. 

What can the military do?: Kirby could not say what measures the military may have in place should the rocket land on U.S. soil, pointing to that limited time frame.

“It’s too soon to explore options about what if anything can be done about this until we have a better sense of where it’s coming down,” he said. “We just don’t know enough right now to be able to formulate specific notification plans.” 

Follow along: For anyone who wants to track the debris themselves, the 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., will be posting daily updates to space-track.org.

Read more here.



About two-thirds of U.S. adults support bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by September, according to a new poll commissioned by the libertarian Charles Koch Institute and obtained exclusively by The Hill.

In the survey, 38 percent said they strongly support bringing the troops home by the Biden administration's announced deadline, and 28 percent said they somewhat support doing so.

When the question was posed just to military members and veterans, there was a similar response, with 38 percent saying they strongly support the withdrawal and 30 percent saying they somewhat support it.

But can it be done?: Even as the poll indicated support for the withdrawal, it also showed some skepticism that it will be completed by Biden's deadline.

Thirty-eight percent of adults said they think it is unlikely the United States will successfully remove all troops from Afghanistan by September, compared with 36 percent who said they think it is likely.

For military members and veterans, 37 percent said they think it is unlikely, compared with 44 percent who said they think it is likely.

Read more here.



The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on atrocities against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang with testimony from a survivor and outside experts at 12:30 pm. https://bit.ly/33ixFvV

Gen. Paul Funk, commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command, will participate in a virtual fireside chat hosted by Center for a New American Security at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/3uokiq0

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday will provide virtual remarks to the Navy Memorial SITREP Speaker Series at 1:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3xPtdTv

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on ship and submarine maintenance with testimony from Navy officials at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/3xRO4Fw



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