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

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

Happy Friday 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: The Biden administration is withdrawing “certain forces and capabilities," mostly air defense systems, from the Middle East, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.

“The secretary of Defense directed the commander of U.S. Central Command to remove from the region this summer certain forces and capabilities, primarily air defense assets,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Jessica McNulty said in a statement.

“This decision was made in close coordination with host nations and with a clear eye on preserving our ability to meet our security commitments,” McNulty added. “It’s about maintaining some of our high demand, low density assets so they are ready for future requirements in the event of a contingency.”

What’s coming back from where: The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the withdrawals, said the Pentagon is withdrawing eight Patriot anti-missile batteries from countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and another missile defense system known as THAAD from Saudi Arabia, as well as the hundreds of U.S. troops who operate and support those systems.

Fighter squadrons assigned to the region are also being reduced, according to the Journal.

Some assets will be brought back to the United States for “much needed maintenance and repair,” while others will be redeployed to the other regions, McNulty said.

A shift: The shuffling away from the Middle East comes ahead of the completion later this summer of the global force posture review the Pentagon started at the beginning of the Biden administration as it seeks to reorient the military toward competition with China and Russia.

It also comes as U.S. military fully withdraws from Afghanistan in line with President BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE’s order to be out by September.

Most of the latest reductions are coming from Saudi Arabia, according to the Journal. Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it China moves quickly to replace America in Afghanistan Harris to travel to Vietnam, Singapore in August MORE notified Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the changes in a June 2 call, and the military began making the reductions afterward, the report added.

The background: The Trump administration bulked up U.S. military assets in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East amid its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran, including deploying missile defenses after a 2019 attack on a Saudi oil field blamed on Iranian drones.

The United States also moved Patriot systems into Iraq following the Iranian missile strike on a base housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Read the full story here.

 

DEMS INTRODUCE RESOLUTION APOLOGIZING TO LGBT COMMUNITY FOR DISCRIMINATION

Democratic senators introduced a resolution Friday that would acknowledge and apologize for the mistreatment and discrimination against LGBT individuals in the U.S. military, armed forces and government posts. 

The resolution, led by Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinManaging the US dollar to pay for congressional infrastructure plans Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage Senate Democrats call for Medicaid-like plan to cover non-expansion states MORE (D-Wis.), who is an openly gay member of the Senate, and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (D-Va.), acknowledges and apologizes "for the mistreatment of and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) individuals who have served our nation as civil servants or members of the Armed Forces and Foreign Service." 

A new commitment: The resolution also reestablishes a commitment by the U.S. government to "military service members, veterans, foreign service employees, federal civil service employees, and contractors with equal respect and fairness, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Timing: The lawmakers' resolution comes in the middle of June, a month set aside to celebrate LGBT pride and activism. 

A history of discrimination: The senators' resolution notes that dating back to the 1940s, discrimination against the LGBT community was part of military policy.

At the time, the Department of Defense stated that “homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Forces in any capacity and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces is mandatory,” according to a statement released by Kaine. 

The resolution also acknowledges the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enacted in the military under former President Clinton. The policy stated that LGBT service members were prohibited from disclosing their sexual orientation while in the armed forces. 

"...despite 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, LGBT military service members continued to be investigated and discharged solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of those military service members," the resolution reads. 

Recent examples: Most recently, the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018 effectively banned transgender service members from openly serving in the military. 

A new stance: However, the Biden administration reversed Trump's policy at the end of March, with the Pentagon unveiling new policies that would allow transgender service members to serve using their gender identity. 

Most recently, the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018 effectively banned transgender service members from openly serving in the military. 

However, the Biden administration reversed Trump's policy at the end of March, with the Pentagon unveiling new policies that would allow transgender service members to serve using their gender identity. 

 

WHITE HOUSE DENIES FREEZING UKRAINE MILITARY AID PACKAGE

The White House on Friday denied holding back security assistance from Ukraine, hours after a Politico article said that officials had paused a package including lethal assistance worth up to $100 million.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Hunter Biden blasts those criticizing price of his art: 'F--- 'em' MORE issued a statement Friday afternoon calling the idea that the White House has held back security assistance to Ukraine “nonsense.”

Psaki cited a $150 million aid package announced by the Defense Department last week and pointed to President Biden’s public support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDemocrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE on Wednesday.

“We have now provided the entire amount appropriated by Congress through the Ukraine security assistance initiative,” Psaki said.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Defense One will hold its Tech Summit, with Gen. John Murray, commanding general, Army Futures Command; Kerri Dugan, director of the Biological Technologies Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Kayvon Modjarrad, M.D., director of Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, at 1 p.m. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Gillibrand: Military must make changes beyond sexual assault cases

-- The Hill: US-led war games in Africa wrap up after two weeks of exercises

-- The Hill: US officials: Iranian ships changing course away from Venezuela

-- The Hill: Kim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US

-- The Hill: Israeli forces strike Gaza for second time following incendiary balloons

-- Military Times: Pentagon’s extremism definition will have to find the line between free speech and unit cohesion

-- The Associated Press: Afghan peace envoy fears pullout will embolden Taliban