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Overnight Defense: Supreme Court declines to hear suit challenging male-only draft | Drone refuels Navy fighter jet for the first time | NATO chief meets with Austin, Biden

Overnight Defense: Supreme Court declines to hear suit challenging male-only draft | Drone refuels Navy fighter jet for the first time | NATO chief meets with Austin, Biden
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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: The Supreme Court won’t be weighing in on whether the all-male draft is constitutional, at least for now.

The high court declined Monday to hear a lawsuit brought by a men’s rights group that alleged only requiring men to register for the draft amounts to discrimination based on sex.

Background: The U.S. military hasn’t drafted anyone since the Vietnam War, but men 18 through 26 years old still have to register for the Selective Service System or else face consequences such as losing access to federal financial aid for college.

A lawsuit from a group known as the National Coalition for Men, with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that a 1981 Supreme Court ruling upholding the all-male draft was no longer valid since all combat jobs are now open to women.

A federal court ruled in 2019 the all-male draft was unconstitutional, but an appeals court overturned that ruling last year, prompting the plaintiffs’ unsuccessful bid for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Kicking it Congress: Writing in support of the decision not to hear the case, three justices said Monday they were deferring to Congress on the issue.

But the justices indicated they were open to hearing the case if Congress fails to act.

“It remains to be seen, of course, whether Congress will end gender-based registration under the Military Selective Service Act. But at least for now, the Court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh.

What will Congress do?: A commission created by Congress to examine the draft and other aspects of national service recommended last year women be required to register.

Lawmakers didn’t include the commission’s recommendations in last year’s defense policy bill, saying they hadn’t had enough time to review them.

But the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the commission’s final report in March, followed by the House Armed Services Committee last month.

The House panel previously voted in 2016 to require women to register during debate over that year’s defense bill, but the provision was later stripped from the final version of the bill in favor of creating the commission to study the issue.

DRONE REFUELS NAVY FIGHTER FOR FIRST TIME

For the first time, a drone has refueled a Navy fighter jet midair.

In a test while flying over the Midwest on Friday, a Boeing-made MQ-25 Stingray drone briefly connected to the Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet via hose and transferred fuel to the fighter, the Navy said in a news release Monday.

The two aircraft, which had taken off from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., flew as close as 20 feet from each other during the maneuver, Boeing said in a separate release.

Why it matters: Once fielded, the MQ-25s will operate from aircraft carriers, which the Navy says will increase the range and endurance of future carrier air wings. The drones are also intended to free the Super Hornet fleet of the tanker mission.

"This is our mission, an unmanned aircraft that frees our strike fighters from the tanker role, and provides the Carrier Air Wing with greater range, flexibility and capability," Capt. Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office, said in a statement.

“Seeing the MQ-25 fulfilling its primary tasking today, fueling an F/A-18, is a significant and exciting moment for the Navy and shows concrete progress toward realizing MQ-25’s capabilities for the fleet,” Reed added.

Watch it: The Navy also released a video of the test Monday over on its Twitter.

NATO HEAD MEETS WITH BIDEN, AUSTIN

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made the rounds in Washington, D.C., on Monday ahead of next week’s NATO summit.

Stoltenberg met separately with Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden to host Afghan president at White House on Friday Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE at the Pentagon and President BidenJoe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE at the White House.

After the White House meeting, Stoltenberg told reporters China was among the topics he and Biden discussed and will be a topic at next week’s summit.

“China will soon have the biggest economy in the world; they already have the second largest defense budget, the biggest Navy. They’re investing heavily in advanced military capabilities. And they don’t share our values,” Stoltenberg said. “So we need to stand up for the rules-based international order.”

Timing: Biden is leaving on his first foreign trip Wednesday.

In addition to the NATO summit, the trip is expected to include a Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in the U.K. and Biden’s face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinA balance of pragmatism and agendas shaped the U.S.-Russia summit Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Christie: 'No damage was done' from Biden's overseas trip MORE in Geneva on June 16.

Ukraine leader invited to White House: Ahead of the Putin meeting, Biden spoke Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and invited him to the White House this summer.

“They had the opportunity to talk at some length about all of the issues in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and President Biden was able to tell president Zelensky that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations as we go forward,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday.

“He also told President Zelensky that he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House in Washington this summer after he returns from Europe,” Sullivan said.

In an interview with Axios published over the weekend, Zelensky urged Biden to meet with him before meeting with Putin next week.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on strategic competition with China with testimony from outside experts at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3pwLykv

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughVA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Overnight Defense: Supreme Court declines to hear suit challenging male-only draft | Drone refuels Navy fighter jet for the first time | NATO chief meets with Austin, Biden MORE will testify before the House Veterans Affairs Committee at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2T4DqeQ

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on Air Force projection forces with testimony from service officials at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/2SkSu7Y

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will participate in a fireside chat at the opening session of the Center for a New American Security 2021 National Security Conference at 12:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/2SffPrG

Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/2SkCK4V

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenKim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US The Senate just passed the next Apollo program Young Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' MORE will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 2:15 p.m. https://bit.ly/3cpqBT6

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on Navy and Marine Corps investment programs with testimony from service officials at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3ptkGle

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Navy denies NFL rookie Cameron Kinley's request to delay commission to play for Tampa Bay

-- The Hill: Bipartisan lawmakers press Biden to 'immediately' evacuate Afghans who helped US forces

-- The Hill: Opinion: Iran-linked drones are one more reason to end the war in Iraq

-- Foreign Policy: Pentagon faces tense fight over Pacific pivot

-- Washington Post: He spent years at war in Afghanistan. Now he commands the U.S. withdrawal.

-- Army Times: Retired Army major general reduced to second lieutenant for sex crime conviction

-- New York Times: CIA scrambles for new approach in Afghanistan