Overnight Defense & National Security — Preparing for the Biden-Putin call

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

Ahead of a much anticipated call between President BidenJoe BidenUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries German military official who said it's 'easy' to give Putin the respect he probably 'deserves' resigns US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE, the Pentagon held a top-level meeting to discuss Moscow’s military buildup at the Ukrainian border.

We’ll share what we know about the meeting plus details of the damning new memo accusing top Army generals of lying about their actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and the Pentagon’s warning to Congress over a year-long stopgap bill.

For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips: emitchell@thehill.com.

Let’s get to it.


Top Pentagon leaders meet over Russia


Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — White House raises new alarm over Russia GOP lawmakers press administration on US weapons left behind in Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation MORE held a meeting Monday morning to discuss Moscow’s recent military aggression, according to the Pentagon’s top spokesman.

Austin met with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyJournalist Robert Costa leaving Washington Post for CBS News The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation MORE, U.S. European Command head Gen. Tod Wolters and others “to discuss the situation in Ukraine and of course, western Russia,” Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Russia meet during 'critical' point US sends aircraft carrier group to Mediterranean as Russia threat looms Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE told reporters.

“I won't get into intelligence assessments, but [Austin] is staying very keenly and closely informed by senior military and policy leaders here at the department about what we continue to see, and what we continue to see is added [military] capability that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin continues to add ... in the western part of his country and around Ukraine,” Kirby said.

Stark intelligence: Russia’s military has amassed some 90,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, causing tensions worldwide and sparking fears that Moscow may be preparing to invade the country.

Those tensions have reached a fever pitch after U.S. intelligence discovered that Moscow is planning a military offensive against Ukraine that could take place as soon as next year. 

That plan involves 175,000 Kremlin troops, according to an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post

What’s the plan?: Asked about possible plans for U.S. military intervention or a pending weapons package to Ukraine should Russia carry out an offensive, Kirby declined to comment, citing the upcoming phone call between Biden and Putin.

Hoping to deescalate: Kirby also pointed to comments Austin made on Saturday at the Reagan National Defense forum in California, where he asserted that “there's a lot of space here for diplomacy and leadership to work” to de-escalate the situation. 

“There's no reason for this to come to blows. There's no reason for this to become a conflict. As the secretary said, there's still space for diplomacy and leadership,” Kirby said. 

Read the full story here.


Read our stories on today’s developments:



A former D.C. National Guard official is accusing two Army generals of lying about the military’s response to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

Col. Earl Matthews, who at the time was the top attorney for then-D.C. National Guard commander Maj. Gen. William Walker, wrote a memo to the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack that was obtained by Politico.

A damning memo: In the memo, Matthews called Gen. Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, director of Army staff, “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their recollections of the Capitol riot.

Matthews said the men lied in their testimonies to Congress about how they responded to pleas for the D.C. Guard to be deployed on Jan. 6, what they told the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General in a report released last month and that the Army has a document about the riot that is “worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist,” Politico reported.

Timing: The memo comes weeks after Walker, who is now the House sergeant-at-arms, demanded the IG’s report be retracted because it contradicted his account of when he was told to send troops to the Capitol.

The watchdog’s report revealed that Walker had been called twice by then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyOvernight Defense & National Security — Preparing for the Biden-Putin call Former DC National Guard official accuses generals of lying about Capitol riot Former DC Guard commander calls for retraction of Pentagon watchdog's Jan. 6 report MORE informing him that the D.C. National Guard had been approved to help Capitol Police, once at 4:35 p.m. and again 30 minutes later.

D.C. National Guard personnel hadn’t arrived at the Capitol until hours after the initial breach, which has been the subject of much scrutiny.  

The Pentagon’s response: Army spokesman Mike Brady said in a statement Monday the military stands by "all testimony and facts provided to date, and vigorously reject any allegations to the contrary."

In a statement to The Hill the Defense Department’s Inspector General's office said it "welcomes inquiries and discussion regarding our oversight work," but that it stands behind “the conclusions in our review of the Department of Defense’s role, responsibilities, and actions to prepare for and respond to the protest and its aftermath at the U.S. Capitol campus on January 6, 2021.”

Other accusations: According to Matthews’s memo, senior military and law enforcement officials, including himself and Walker, pleaded to deploy the Guard to the Capitol in a call that occurred around 2:30 p.m. Both Flynn and Piatt suggested that the Guard take over D.C. police’s traffic duties so that they could be deployed to the Capitol, the memo added. 

“LTG Piatt stated that it would not be his best military advice to recommend to the Secretary of the Army that the D.C. National Guard be allowed to deploy to the Capitol at that time,” Matthews wrote, adding “LTGs Piatt and Flynn stated that the optics of having uniformed military personnel deployed to the U.S. Capitol would not be good."

In a separate document obtained by Politico, the D.C. National Guard says that Piatt and Flynn suggested the D.C. guard “stand by” at 2:37 p.m. Four minutes later, Flynn further advised the Guard to stand by until McCarthy and then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller received the requests.

Both Piatt and Flynn have denied to Congress that they said the Guard shouldn’t deploy to the Capitol. 

Read the full story here.


Austin warns of risks from short-term funding

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan at the Rayburn House Office building on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday pressed Congress to end its partisan fighting and pass a funding package for 2022, warning that an extended stopgap bill would have “enormous” negative effects on the Pentagon.

Congress last week passed a short-term bill to keep the federal government open through Feb. 18, known as a continuing resolution (CR). A full-year CR is unlikely, but military leaders have annually warned against such an occurrence because it would maintain funding at current year levels. That can delay new programs and hurt innovation and national security, Austin said.

“The Department of Defense once again faces the threat of a continuing resolution to fund our programs and operations into the new year,” Austin said in a statement. 

What’s the damage?: “While the short-term CR passed by Congress was a necessary measure to keep the government open and provide additional time to reach agreement on full-year appropriations bills, some have even suggested a CR could last an entire year, an unprecedented move that would cause enormous, if not irreparable, damage for a wide range of bipartisan priorities,” he added. 

Should a full-year CR be passed, it would lock in defense spending about $37 billion less than what the House and Senate Armed Services committees have proposed in their annual defense bills.

The casualties: Austin said a CR would “erode the U.S. military advantage relative to China, impede our ability to innovate and modernize, degrade readiness, and hurt our people and their families. And it would offer comfort to our enemies, disquiet to our allies, and unnecessary stress to our workforce.”

He adds that a CR would “result in over five billion dollars in cuts to our operating accounts,” which would hurt troop readiness and the military’s ability to cover the health care needs of military families.

It would also “significantly impact” new technology programs and delay more than 100 military construction projects. 

Read the full story here.





That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you Tuesday.