Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage

It's Wednesday, welcome to Overnight Defense, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

The House is in the midst of debating its annual sweeping defense policy bill.

President Biden sought to cool the temperature with France after a week of French anger over being snubbed by the new U.S.-U.K.-Australia security partnership.

And House Democrats are trying again at funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system.

For The Hill, we're Ellen Mitchell and Rebecca Kheel. Write to us with tips: emitchell@thehill.com and rkheel@thehill.com

Let's get to it.

 

House debates defense bill 

The House is deep in its consideration of the annual defense policy bill, with votes on several amendments and passage of the bill expected Thursday.

Debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) kicked off Tuesday night with consideration of 13 amendments and continued Wednesday.

While 476 amendments were advanced to the House floor, the only amendments that are being considered on their own are the 13 from Tuesday night and 16 debated Wednesday afternoon.

The remaining amendments were grouped together in four "en bloc" packages of amendments considered noncontroversial that get a few minutes of comments and generally pass by voice vote, though recorded votes were requested for three of the en bloc packages this year.

Hitchin' a ride: Because the NDAA is one of the few bills each year that reliably gets signed into law, it often attracts amendments unrelated or nominally related to defense as lawmakers seek to make progress on their priorities.

This year is no different. Among the unrelated or tangentially related amendments that have been attached so far is a cannabis banking bill and public lands bills

Defense amendments: Of course there are plenty of interesting germane amendments that made it to the floor too.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) offered an amendment that would require U.S. troops to be pulled from Syria in a year unless Congress specifically authorizes them.

Progressive also have a pair of amendments to cut the defense budget. Rep. Barbara Lee's (D-Calif.) would undo the $25 billion increase over the Biden administration's request approved by the House Armed Service Committee, while Rep. Mark Pocan's (D-Wis.) would cut the defense budget by 10 percent.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) also has an amendment to suspend funding for the intercontinental ballistic missile program known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and the W87-1 warhead modification program.

Competing amendments from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) to cut off or limit U.S. military support to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen both made it to the floor.

Also on the floor is Rep. Hank Johnson's (D-Ga.) amendment aimed at restricting the transfer of military-grade weapons to police.

The House finished debating all those amendments Wednesday evening, but votes on them were kicked to Thursday.

In the Senate: Meanwhile, if you've been itching to read the version of the NDAA approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, the committee posted it Wednesday.

The Senate panel released a summary after approving it, but typically holds off on releasing the full text until shortly before it comes to the floor, which is expected next month.

The bill is here, the committee report about the bill is here and the funding tables are here.

US, France makeup

President Biden worked to mend fences Wednesday as he got on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since the kerfuffle over the U.S.-U.K.-Australia nuclear-powered submarine deal.

In a joint U.S.-French statement after the call, the countries announced the French ambassador to the U.S., who was pulled in protest of the sub deal, would return to Washington, D.C., next week.

"The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners. President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard," the statement said.

Biden and Macron also promised to meet in person in Europe next month.

U.K. scoffs: While Biden was offered his mea culpa to France on Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed the French complaints.

"I just think it's time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about all this," Johnson told reporters outside the U.S. Capitol, using the French for "get a."

"Donnez-moi un break," Johnson added, using the French of "give me a."

 

A MESSAGE FROM AM GENERAL

AM General has a strong legacy of designing, manufacturing and supporting iconic, high-quality military, commercial, and consumer vehicles. We offer versatile vehicles, innovative product solutions, and end-to-end support that keeps pace with the changing world.

 

TOP US, RUSSIAN GENERALS CONFER

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley met with his Russian counterpart in Helsinki on Wednesday.

A brief statement from Milley's office said the meeting with Gen. Valery Gerasimov was "a continuation of talks aimed at improving military leadership communication between the two nations for the purposes of risk reduction and operational deconfliction."

Milley also told reporters traveling him "productive" and that "when military leaders of great powers communicate, the world is a safer place," according to The Associated Press.

Context: In line with past precedent on Milley's meetings with the Russians, Milley and his office did not disclose what specifically was discussed.

But the meeting comes within the context of the United States trying to convince Central Asian countries that are closely aligned with Russia to house U.S. troops to conduct the "over-the-horizon" operations the Biden administration has promised to continue in Afghanistan. Russia has voiced strong opposition to a U.S. military presence in Central Asia.

With no basing agreements with Afghanistan's neighbors, the over-the-horizon forces will have come from the U.S. troops based in the Gulf region. That makes it that much harder to keep terrorist threats in check because long flights to and from Afghanistan mean less time over the air there and therefore less visibility on what's happening.

Iron Dome, take two 

Following Tuesday's dustup between Democrats over including funding for Israel's Iron Dome in a stopgap spending measure, House Democrats introduced a standalone bill Wednesday for the Iron Dome funding.

The bill would provide $1 billion that Israel requested to replenish Iron Dome interceptors that were used during May's Israel-Palestine conflict.

"The United States' commitment to the security of our friend and ally Israel is ironclad. Replenishing interceptors used to protect Israel from attacks is our legal and moral responsibility," House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement. "While this funding would ordinarily be included in a year-end spending package, we are advancing this legislation now to demonstrate Congress' bipartisan commitment to Israel's security as part of a Middle East with lasting peace."

Background: House Democratic leadership has originally included the funding in the continuing resolution (CR) they introduced Tuesday.

But progressive Democrats balked and threatened to vote against the CR, which is needed to keep the government open past September and which Republicans are opposing over its inclusion of a debt ceiling suspension.

So Democrats pulled the funding from the CR, with DeLauro originally promising to instead include it in the end-of-year defense spending bill. But as GOP accused of Democrats of being anti-Israel and moderate Democrats pushed for the funding to be restored, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) promised to bring a standalone bill with the funding to the floor by the end of the week.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday will speak as part of Defense One's "State of Defense: Navy" digital event at 9:05 a.m. https://bit.ly/3kyE5jY
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost to be commander of U.S. Transportation Command at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3zwmWvG
  • A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on "Advancing Locally-led Development and Partner Diversification in U.S. Development Programs" with testimony from outside experts at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3kxbV8S
  • A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on transatlantic cooperation to counter violent extremism with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/39tkVWj

 

A MESSAGE FROM AM GENERAL

AM General has a strong legacy of designing, manufacturing and supporting iconic, high-quality military, commercial, and consumer vehicles. We offer versatile vehicles, innovative product solutions, and end-to-end support that keeps pace with the changing world.

WHAT WE'RE READING

 

That's it for today. Check out The Hill's defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. We'll see you Thursday.

Outbrain