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Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent $2.4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech

Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent $2.4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech
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Happy Friday 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: Former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite was in the job for just eight months during the Trump administration, but reportedly spent about $2.4 million on air travel for 22 trips.

USA TODAY reported that Braithwaite, who was sworn in last May and resigned when President BidenJoe BidenMilitary must better understand sexual assaults to combat them The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE took office on January 21, traveled to more foreign and domestic locations than any other senior Pentagon civilian amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By comparison: Other service secretaries took fewer trips in the same period, with then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyVice News promotes Micheal Learmonth to editor-in-chief Trump appointee endorses Christine Wormuth as Army secretary Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech MORE embarking on 17 trips that cost roughly $900,000 and then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett traveling to 19 destinations for a total $1.6 million, according to spokespeople from each service.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army 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, meanwhile, took four trips in that time frame, and then-Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military MORE and his successor, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, took a combined 15 trips.

Where did he go?: Among Braithwaite’s trips was a $232,000 excursion in January to the South Pacific's Wake Island to record a farewell message to the Navy and Marine Corps.

The island is essentially a refueling stop and emergency landing strip thousands of miles from Hawaii where no sailors or Marines are stationed, Navy spokesman Capt. Jereal Dorsey told the outlet.

Braithwaite also flew to Norway, Italy, Greece, Japan and India, as well as several trips to Hawaii and a more than $24,000 flight to attend the Army-Navy football game with his family.

Braithwaite’s response: Braithwaite defended his travels in a statement to USA Today, claiming they were necessary to strengthen the Navy after recent crises, likely alluding to the scandal surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

“I am extremely proud of the record of accomplishments of Our Sailors and Marines during my tenure as Secretary, especially following such a tumultuous chapter in the Navy’s recent history of crisis following crisis as compared to our other services,” Braithwaite wrote. “I submit it's impossible to lead men and women deployed around the world from behind a desk in Washington.”

Braithwaite added that he believes his trips “left the Navy and the Marine Corps better positioned to respond to our nation's defense today and tomorrow.”

Read more here.

 

NOTABLE HEARINGS NEXT WEEK

The House Oversight Committee announced Friday it will hold a hearing Wednesday on “Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions” from the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Of particular interest for defense watchers, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller is slated to be one of the witnesses.

Miller has previously blamed former President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE for the attack. Questions have also been raised about Miller’s own role in the delayed response from the National Guard, particularly after the March testimony from then-D.C. National Guard commanding general Maj. Gen. William Walker. All that adds up to potentially interesting testimony next week.

Noms, noms, noms: Also for your planner next week, the Senate Armed Services Committee will start chipping away at the more than 20 nominations it has pending before it, just like Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedOur new praetorian guard? Progressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein Gillibrand: Military must make changes beyond sexual assault cases MORE (D-R.I.) said it would prioritize doing in May.

First up on Tuesday, the committee will hear from Pentagon comptroller nominee Michael McCord and Ronald Moultrie, the nominee to be under secretary of Defense for intelligence and security.

Then on Thursday, the panel will hear from Christine Wormuth, the nominee to be Army secretary, who would be the first woman to hold the job if she’s confirmed.

 

MORE FOR YOUR CALENDAR

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point announced Friday 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 will be its commencement speaker.

The ceremony is slated for May 22. Of note, Austin himself is a West Point grad from 1975.

Friday’s announcement fills in the slate of this year’s military academy commencement speakers after Biden was announced for the Coast Guard Academy, Vice President Harris was announced for the Naval Academy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was announced for the Air Force Academy.

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Acting Army Secretary John Whitley and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville will speak at an online Atlantic Council event at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/2Sv2ETf

 

ICYMI

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