Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed

Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed
© Greg Nash

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: The nation’s top military officers are warning against a sweeping military justice overhaul that has broad bipartisan backing in the Senate.

In letters released Tuesday by Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member 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 chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force and National Guard Bureau argued that removing military prosecutions of all serious crimes from the chain of command could undermine commanders’ ability to lead.

“It is my professional opinion that removing commanders from the prosecution decisions, process, and accountability may have an adverse effect on readiness, mission accomplishment, good order and discipline, justice, unit cohesion, trust, and loyalty between commanders and those they lead,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight 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 Watchdog warns US will repeat mistakes of Afghanistan Adaptability remains a constant — even as the 'character of war' changes MORE wrote in his letter, elaborating on recent testimony before the committee.

A caveat: Still, Milley reiterated that “in the specific and limited circumstance of sexual assault, I remain open-minded to all solutions.”

“I urge caution to ensure any changes to commander authority to enforce discipline be rigorously analyzed, evidence-based, and narrow in scope, limited only to sexual assault and related offenses,” Milley added.

What now: It is unclear when the bill will be taken up now, but the committee already had a tentative backup business meeting on its schedule for Thursday.

Context: At issue is a dispute over how broadly to reform the military justice system in an effort to tackle the pervasive issue of sexual assault in the military.

The Independent Review Commission empaneled by 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 to study how to better tackle sexual assault has recommended taking the decision to prosecute sexual assault and sexual harassment away from commanders and giving it to independent prosecutors.

But a bill from Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.) would remove the decision to prosecute all serious crimes — including sexual assault, but also other crimes such as murder — from the chain of command.

Growing support blocked: Gillibrand’s bill has 66 co-sponsors, more than enough to overcome a Senate filibuster. But a dozen efforts by Gillibrand to get the bill a floor vote have been blocked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedHouse panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors Senate panel votes to make women register for draft Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance MORE (D-R.I.) or Inhofe.

Reed has said he favors tackling the issue in the annual defense policy bill, rather than a stand-alone vote on Gillibrand’s bill, something supporters of her bill say is an effort to water down reforms. Reed supports the recommendation of the Independent Review Commission on sexual assault prosecutions over the broader reforms being proposed by Gillibrand.

Reaction to the letters: In a statement, Gillibrand called the letters "disappointing, but not surprising."

"From racially integrating the armed forces to enabling women to serve in combat to allowing LGBTQ service members to serve openly, the chain of command has always fought to protect the status quo, just as they are doing here," she said. "Their arguments are recycled talking points from the battles for progress in the past and are void of any coherent argument beyond the disingenuous 'good order and discipline.'"

The Pentagon’s argument: In their letters, the Joint Chiefs acknowledged sexual assault victims have lost faith in the ability of commanders to handle their cases and several expressed an openness to military justice reform for sex crimes.

But they all argued Gillibrand’s bill could create new problems, echoing Milley’s concerns about negatively affecting commanders’ ability to maintain good order and discipline.

Read the rest here.

 

SENATE PANEL PLANS JULY AUMF REPEAL BRIEFING

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a briefing in July on repealing the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War, its chairman said Tuesday.

The announcement from Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezLobbying world This week: Congress starts summer sprint The Innovation and Competition Act is progressive policy MORE (D-N.J.) comes after a group of Republicans on the committee asked him to delay consideration of a bill to repeal the 2002 and 1991 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) until administration officials appear before the committee.

The original plan: The committee had originally been scheduled to consider a bill Tuesday from Sens. 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.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Ind.) that would repeal both the 2002 AUMF for the Iraq War and the 1991 AUMF for the Gulf War.

The hold up: But on Monday, five Republicans on the committee sent a letter to Menendez asking him to delay the vote until the panel holds a public hearing and classified briefing with administration officials.

In the letter, the Republicans argued there are “weighty questions” associated with repealing the 2002 AUMF that need answers.

“We believe it is critical that every member of this committee fully understand the scope and use of existing legal authorities, the current threats to the U.S. and its allies and partners, and the implications for our national security and foreign policy,” GOP Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (Utah), Mike RoundsMike RoundsEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Schumer sets up key vote on bipartisan deal MORE (S.D.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioBreak glass in case of emergency — but not for climate change Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (Fla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump urged DOJ officials to call election corrupt 'and leave the rest to me' Chuck Todd is dead wrong: Liberal bias defines modern journalism Grassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa MORE (Wis.) and Bill Hagerty (Tenn.) wrote in the letter.

The background: The Biden administration has come out in support of scrapping the 2002 AUMF, with the White House saying in a statement last week that it backs repeal because “the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.”

But opponents of repealing the 2002 measure argue doing so could hamstring U.S. counterterrorism missions, saying it should not be repealed until a replacement is agreed to for a separate 2001 AUMF.

While the 2002 authorization has occasionally been cited to bolster legal arguments in the fight against ISIS, it has been secondary to the 2001 one, which was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to authorize the war in Afghanistan and war on terror.

Read more of the story here.

 

GUARD MAY HAVE ‘TRAINING ISSUES’ IF NOT REIMBURSED

National Guard officials may have to cut troops' training beginning in July if Congress does not reimburse the force for its months-long deployment protecting the U.S. Capitol, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth warned on Tuesday. 

“Without those resources, the Guard ... will find themselves with training issues,” Wormuth told lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations subpanel hearing on Army funding

The deployment: Thousands of National Guardsmen from around the country deployed to Washington, D.C., for nearly five months to shore up security at the Capitol after the Jan. 6 attack on the building by supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE

The cost of the deployment — which at its height included nearly 26,000 Guardsmen — was estimated at $521 million and was pulled from the Guard’s operational and training funds.

Congress slow to act: A House-passed bill to bolster Capitol security included funding to reimburse the Guard, but the Senate is still crafting its own version of such legislation, leaving the Guard without payment for the mission. 

The fear: “If we are not able to cover that right now, the Army Guard is basically in a situation where they are concerned about their ability to pay for training for the rest of this year,” Wormuth said of the lack of funds.

The Guard has already postponed some regularly scheduled training due to preoccupations with COVID-19 support and missions at the southern border and the Capitol, she said.

Wormuth added that the Guard could cancel training as soon as July or be at risk of violating federal law that prevents excess spending over the designated budget. 

“It’s definitely a concern and something that will impact our Guard all around the nation,” she said.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Reps. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierJimmy and Rosalynn Carter celebrate 75th anniversary, longest-married presidential couple Military braces for sea change on justice reform House panel plans mid-July consideration of military justice overhaul MORE (D-Calif.), and Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerOvernight Defense: JEDI axed | Pentagon defends Bagram exit | Military justice reform coming soon Military braces for sea change on justice reform Lawmakers warn of growing threats to US satellites from adversaries MORE (R-Ohio), will introduce the Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act alongside House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), at 9 a.m. in the House Visitor Center, room 201. Livestream here

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley will testify at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on “The Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense,” at 10 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. 

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today Overnight Defense: Biden says US combat mission in Iraq wrapping by year's end | Civilian casualties in Afghanistan peak amid US exit | VA mandates COVID-19 vaccine for health workers Overnight Health Care: New round of vaccine mandates | Health groups call for mandates for all health workers | Rising case count reignites debate over restrictions MORE will testify at a Senate Appropriations subpanel on the “Review of the FY 2022 Budget and FY 2023 Advance Appropriations Requests for the Department of Veterans Affairs,” at 10 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 138. 

Defense officials and experts will speak at Day 2 of the Defense One Tech Summit beginning at 1 p.m. 

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hear testimony from Defense officials on recent ransomware attacks at 2 p.m. in Russell Senate Office Building, room 222.

The Association of the U.S. Army will hold a webinar on “The Army’s growing role in the Indo-Pacific,” with retired Gen. Robert Brown, AUSA executive vice president and a former commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific; and retired Navy Adm. Scott Swift, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, at 2 p.m. 

 

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