Overnight Defense: Austin, Bidens thank National Guard as Capitol mission ends | CBO estimates nuclear arsenal to cost $634B over 10 years | Senate Armed Services chairman backs change in prosecuting military sexual assault

Overnight Defense: Austin, Bidens thank National Guard as Capitol mission ends | CBO estimates nuclear arsenal to cost $634B over 10 years | Senate Armed Services chairman backs change in prosecuting military sexual assault
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Happy Monday 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: After nearly five months, the National Guard mission at the Capitol has ended.

The mission officially ended Sunday, and with no request to extend it, the thousands of Guardsmen from around the country who have been in Washington, D.C., have started heading home.

About 1,000 remained in the area as of Monday and were in the process of leaving, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday.

Administration thanks: With the mission over, both President BidenJoe BidenBiden authorizes up to 0M for Afghan refugees Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe MORE and Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia Warren-backed amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to defense bill Pentagon chief to restore advisory panels after purge of Trump loyalists MORE issued statements Monday thanking the Guard for their service at the Capitol.

“Since the insurrection on January 6, thousands of proud service members, from states and territories all across our Union, have stood watch over the citadel of our democracy,” Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement. “As they return now to their homes and families, we salute each of them for their commitment to country. When duty calls, our National Guard members put their lives on hold to stand as a shield and a support when their country is in need.”

“In good weather and bad -- sometimes cold and wet and tired -- they provided critical capability to the Capitol Police and local authorities,” Austin said in his own statement. “These airmen and soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people’s business could continue unabated. They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution.”

The Bidens and Austin also noted the particularly hard year the Guard has had between the Capitol deployment, responding to civil unrest across the country, helping with COVID-19 response and responding to natural disasters.

“The Biden family is a National Guard family, and we are forever grateful and in awe of those who, like our son Beau, understand that duty and service to others is what makes us who we are as Americans,” the Bidens said. “To all the National Guard members and their families who sacrifice so much for our country, like all our service members: we owe you and we will always have your backs.”

Lawmaker thanks: Several top lawmakers also gave their thanks to the Guard on Monday.

Both Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Schumer blasts McCarthy for picking people who 'supported the big lie' for Jan. 6 panel MORE (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHas Trump beaten the system? Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony MORE (R-Ky.) did so in their opening floor speeches.

“Yesterday was the last day that members of the National Guard were stationed at the Capitol,” Schumer said. “In the wake of January 6th, they have all done us an extraordinary service providing an additional layer of security here. I want to thank everyone on behalf of the Senate and the entire Capitol complex.”

McConnell’s speech also alluded to the criticism that there was no justification for the continued deployment when it was extended in March.

“Aspects of the Guard’s presence here were not fleshed out as clearly or coherently as either Congress or servicemembers deserved,” he said. “But where Senators are absolutely, 100 percent united is in our great admiration and appreciation of the individual men and women who have volunteered to serve in the National Guard, who’ve put on the uniform, and whose orders brought them here to the Capitol complex.”

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiYellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony MORE (D-Calif.) used her statement thanking the National Guard to press for Senate action on bills passed by the lower chamber to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack and funding security improvements at the Capitol.

“There is no time to waste or room for partisanship in keeping our Capitol and Country safe,” Pelosi said.

CBO ESTIMATES NUKE COSTS AT $634B

Updating and maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next 10 years is projected to cost $634 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a report published Monday.

The cost estimate for the nuclear forces from 2021-2030 represents a 28 percent increase compared to the last CBO 10-year cost estimate two years ago.

About half of the $140 billion increase comes from the fact that the new estimate now includes 2029 and 2030 when nuclear modernization is expected to be further along and “more expensive,” CBO said.

The politics: The new CBO estimate is likely to fuel calls from some Democrats to curb the nuclear modernization plans, which were largely started during the Obama administration and which the Government Accountability Office has estimated could cost $1.7 trillion over 30 years.

Indeed, even before CBO’s latest estimate, a group of Senate and House Democrats was out with a bill Monday to make nuclear cuts, with a news release on the bill citing the CBO estimate from two years ago.

The bill, from lead sponsors Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), aims to cut $73 billion from the nuclear budget by barring the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, air-launched cruise missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles. It would also cap the number of Columbia-class submarines the Pentagon can buy at eight, cut the existing ICBM fleet from more than 400 to 150 and reduce deployed strategic warheads from about 1,500 to 1,000.

“The United States can deter our adversaries and reassure our allies without making an insane investment in nuclear weapons overkill, including capabilities that may invite rather than prevent a nuclear exchange,” Markey said in a statement.

Biden review: The new CBO estimate could also provide fodder when the Biden administration undertakes its widely anticipated review of nuclear policy and programs.

The CBO report itself noted “the Biden administration is widely expected to undertake a nuclear posture review to determine the nuclear policies and forces it will pursue.”

REED BACKS CHANGE IN PROSECUTING MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT

If you missed it over the weekend, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee backed a major change in how the military prosecutes sexual assault, promising reforms would be included in the annual defense policy bill.

“Sexual assault and harassment are pervasive problems in the U.S. military and American culture and we must take comprehensive action to halt sexual violence, hold violators accountable, and support survivors,” committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedSenate panel votes to make women register for draft Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE (D-R.I.) said in a statement Sunday announcing his support for removing commanders from the decision to prosecute sexual assault.

The devil’s in the details: The Pentagon’s so-called Independent Review Commission (IRC) on sexual assault made initial recommendations last month to take sexual assault prosecutions outside the chain of command.

Meanwhile, there’s Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE’s (D-N.Y.) bill, which would affect sexual assault prosecutions, but also other serious crimes such as murder. As previously noted, her bill has enough support to overcome a filibuster.

Reed’s statement notes the IRC “has largely accepted her proposal on sexual assault,” and says the IRC’s recommendation will be include in his version of the annual defense bill.

“All amendments offered by senators will be fully considered in the full committee markup and on the Senate floor,” Reed said. “At the end of conference, I fully expect a robust change in the role of the commander in sexual assault cases will be sent to President Biden for signature.”

Top Republican still not on board: In the same news release as Reed’s statement, Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGillibrand expects vote on military justice bill in fall The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden backs Cuban protesters, assails 'authoritarian regime' Trump getting tougher for Senate GOP to ignore MORE (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the committee, said that while he doesn’t support taking the decision to prosecute outside the chain of command, he agrees “this important issue deserves robust debate as we consider this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.”

“I also would like to acknowledge Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue,” Inhofe said. “While I can’t support removing commanders from the decision making process, I appreciate Chairman Reed’s commitment to ensuring this issue is debated and voted on during the full committee markup of the NDAA.”

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Frank Kendall to the be Air Force secretary, Susanna Blume to be director of the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office and Heidi Shyu to be under secretary of Defense for research and engineering at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/34hhO1f

The House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee will hold a hearing on defense health programs at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3yD5LsU

Gen. Stephen Lyons, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, will participate in a Hudson Institute event airing online at noon. https://bit.ly/3wum61h

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown will participate in a virtual fireside chat with the Center for a New American Security at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/3hPMEWB

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee will hold a hearing on the effect of sanctions in Africa with testimony from outside experts at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/2Thr2by

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on domestic violence in the military with testimony from outside experts and defense officials at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/3uiSceI

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Progressives ramp up scrutiny of US funding for Israel

-- The Hill: Iran, UN nuclear watchdog agree to extension of surveillance cameras

-- The Hill: US considered nuclear strike on China in 1958 to protect Taiwan, documents show

-- The Hill: Top general: Russia, China will look to expand influence in Middle East as US pulls back

-- Military.com: Frosted windows, shower signs: What it took to get the Marines' San Diego boot camp ready for female recruits

-- Associated Press: Navy says it’s charting a new course after rash of problems

-- USA Today: After coming out, a soldier was allegedly raped by another military member and died by suicide. Her family says it's a hate crime