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Overnight Defense: Former Pentagon chief to testify about Capitol riot Wednesday | Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move

Overnight Defense: Former Pentagon chief to testify about Capitol riot Wednesday | Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move
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Happy Tuesday 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: Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller will defend his decision-making ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in congressional testimony Wednesday, arguing he was trying to avoid fears of a military coup or a repeat of the 1970 Kent State shootings, according to a copy of the testimony obtained by The Hill.

Miller’s appearance Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee will mark the highest-ranking testimony from someone who served in the Pentagon when supporters of then-President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE attacked the Capitol in hopes of overturning President BidenJoe BidenBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE’s victory in the November election.

Who else will be there: Testifying alongside Miller on Wednesday will be former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee.

In his testimony, Rosen will similarly defend preparations ahead of the attack, according to a copy of remarks obtained by The Hill.

Rosen’s defense: “I believe that DOJ [Department of Justice] reasonably prepared for contingencies ahead of January 6, understanding that there was considerable uncertainty as to how many people would arrive, who those people would be, and precisely what purposes they would pursue. Unlike the police, DOJ had no frontline role with respect to crowd control,” Rosen wrote. “But DOJ took appropriate precautions to have tactical support available if contingencies led to them being called upon.” 

The controversy: The Pentagon has come under scrutiny for an hours-long delay in deploying the National Guard as the rioters overwhelmed law enforcement officers and breached the Capitol as well as what the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard has described as "unusual" constraints placed on him prior to Jan. 6 that hampered his ability to respond immediately that day.

As he decided what approvals to grant the National Guard leading up to lawmakers’ Electoral College certification, Miller plans to testify, he was cognizant of both the backlash following the use of the National Guard to respond to racial justice protests in June and fears of Trump using the military to overturn the election results.

Miller’s reasoning: “My concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup or that advisors to the President were advocating the declaration of martial law,” Miller wrote in his testimony. 

“No such thing was going to occur on my watch but these concerns, and hysteria about them, nonetheless factored into my decisions regarding the appropriate and limited use of our Armed Forces to support civilian law enforcement during the Electoral College certification,” he wrote. “My obligation to the Nation was to prevent a constitutional crisis.”

He will also cite what he described as the military’s “extremely poor record in supporting domestic law enforcement.”

Read more of the story here.

 

SENATE INTELLIGENCE HEAD WANTS BIDEN TO REVIEW SPACE COMMAND MOVE

The head of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee has joined a group of lawmakers calling on the Biden administration to review a Trump-era decision that moves U.S. Space Command headquarters from Colorado to Alabama.

In a letter released Tuesday, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (D-Va.) and committee member Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate panel advances nominations for key Treasury positions Democrats blast Biden climate adviser over infrastructure remarks Colorado lawmakers invite Harris to tour state's space industry MORE (D-Colo.) pressed President Biden to review the move over concerns of negative impacts to the intelligence community.

The two say they’re worried that the Trump administration “did not take into account how such a move may affect Intelligence Community dependencies and missions,” which work in tandem with Pentagon efforts to protect U.S. satellites and other interests from threats. 

About the move: The Air Force decided in mid-January to move the permanent headquarters of Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. 

The move came as a shock as Colorado Springs was seen as the front-runner to host the new headquarters given Space Command’s predecessor, Air Force Space Command, was headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base.

A concentrated effort: Colorado lawmakers have since banded together to reverse the impending shift, arguing that the change was last minute, influenced by politics and simply didn’t make sense due to Colorado’s already established space installations.

The state’s entire congressional delegation sent letters to Biden as well as Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden congratulates newly-formed Israeli government Netanyahu ousted as Israeli lawmakers approve new government Concerns grow over China's Taiwan plans MORE, urging them to review the decision before moving forward.

New pressure: Warner and Bennet further claim that U.S. intelligence agencies, which were not considered in the basing decision, will also be affected by the move.

They note that “important investments have been made in recent years” to enhance collaboration and work between the military and intelligence agencies, including at the National Space Defense Center (NSDC) at Schriever Air Force Base, which helps the Defense Department defend U.S. satellites.

They also argue that spending valuable time and money on a move could be detrimental for the command “in the face of an evolving threat landscape.”

Read the rest here.

 

LOCKHEED PULLS F-16 MAINTENANCE TEAMS FROM IRAQI BASE

Lockheed Martin is pulling its maintenance crews for Iraq’s F-16 fighter jets after recent militia rocket attacks raised security concerns.

The New York Times first reported Monday that the U.S. defense contractor said it is withdrawing the F-16 teams from Balad air base, located 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Of the 70 employees at the base, 50 were expected to return to the United States and 20 were slated for reassignment in Erbil to the north, according to the Times.

The Pentagon’s response: Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Tuesday declined to answer questions on the level of coordination between the Pentagon and Lockheed ahead of the decision to transfer the workers.

Speaking broadly, Kirby said the U.S. military is “committed to continuing to help Iraqi security forces as they defend their citizens and their country.”

“Our mission there… is about countering ISIS and helping them prosecute operations against ISIS. We do that in many different ways and obviously we’re in close touch with our Iraqi partners about their needs and the capabilities that they require to continue to prosecute that conflict. I don’t have any other detail today,” Kirby said. 

The threats: Iraq has struggled to contain threats from Iranian-backed militias, with at least 10 rockets hitting the air base at Al Asad on March 3, five rockets falling within the Balad installation on March 15 and two rockets landing outside Balad in early April. 

No U.S. service members were killed in the attacks, but a U.S. contractor at Al Asad suffered a heart attack and later died.

Some federal contractors have left the region in the past several months, according to a Defense Department Inspector General report published last week. 

Read the rest here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Afghanistan, with David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs; and Brig. Gen. Matthew Trollinger, deputy director for politico-military affairs, Joint Staff, J-5, at 11 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. 

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will hold a virtual Space Power Forum with Lt. Gen. J.T. Thompson, commander of the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center, at 11 a.m. 

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a conversation on “The Future of National Security and Technology," at 1 p.m. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear from defense officials on “Military and civilian personnel programs in the Department of Defense in review on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program,” at 2:30 p.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 106. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold another hearing on “Department of Defense budget posture for nuclear forces in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program,” at 4:30 p.m. in Russell Senate Office Building, room 232A. 

Former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Vincent Stewart will speak on issues related to diversity and inclusion in both the military services and the intelligence community at the Intelligence National Security Alliance virtual "Wednesday Wisdom" discussion at 4:30 p.m.  

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Iran dismisses US claim of harassment in Strait of Hormuz

-- The Hill: Capitol Police watchdog calls for boosting countersurveillance

-- The Hill: White House condemns rocket attacks against Israel

-- The Hill: Biden sent letter to Palestinian president over 'current situations'

-- The Hill: 5 takeaways from attack on Colonial Pipeline

-- Military Times: Military parents would get 12 weeks of leave to care for new children under congressional proposal

-- The Associated Press: Decision on Minuteman to shape US nuclear policy for decades

-- Defense One: Army Leaders Have Agreed to Cap Troop Size, Top General Says