MARKUP MADNESS: The Capitol Hill phase of the defense budget process kicks into high gear in the House this week as Armed Services subcommittees begin writing components of the National Defense Authorization Act, the voluminous annual bill that will set the 2018 policies and priorities for the Pentagon. The six subcommittee markup sessions on Wednesday and Thursday will begin to form the House’s position on ships, aircraft, troops and nuclear forces.
House Armed Services under the GOP chairmanship of Rep. Mac Thornberry has been pushing for bigger boost to the military than what was provided in Trump’s budget proposal in May and the hearings this week will give the first indication of how far it wants to go. A final bill is expected before Congress leaves for its summer recess in July. Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee under Sen. John McCain is working toward its version of the NDAA, which is also expected to call for higher defense spending. This week’s markup details are in the calendar below.
BACK OFF! As the Islamic State continues to lose ground in Syria, the competition between the proxies of the U.S. and Russian is getting more contentious and deadly. The U.S. accused the Syrian government of attacking the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS in a small town Sunday, and thereby violating an “established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area” west of Raqqa. Just when the U.S thought a “show of force” by coalition airpower had stopped the advancing Syrian forces in their tracks, a Syrian Su-22 bombed SDF positions in the area. The response was swift under the rules of engagement: the Syrian fighter jet was “immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. “The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat,” the statement said. “The Coalition's mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”
It was the first U.S. air-to-air shootdown of a manned aircraft since 1999. On May 4 of that year, Lt. Col. Michael Geczy shot down a Serbian MiG-29 over Bosnia, the Military Times reports.
IRAN ENTERS THE FRAY: On the same day, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard reported it fired missiles targeting what it says were terrorist groups in Syria. The ground-to-ground missiles were aimed at the bases of militants Iran blames for attacks last week in Tehran that left more than a dozen dead, according to the Tasnim News Agency. The Revolutionary Guard said it was following through with an earlier pledge to "retaliate for innocent bloodshed." Iranian state television today quoted Gen. Ramazan Sharif as saying that “if they [ISIS] carry out a specific action to violate our security, definitely there will be more launches, with intensified strength,” according to the AP.
IN AFGHANISTAN: For the second time this month, it appears an Afghan soldier carried out an insider attack on American forces in northern Afghanistan, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. It's the second insider attack, known in the military as "green-on-blue," of the month, Joel Gehrke writes. Last week, three U.S. soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier who was supposed to be their partner. The Taliban claimed that attack as a victory.
SO, WHAT’S THE PLAN? The latest insider attack underscores the challenges facing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as he tries to fashion a winning strategy in Afghanistan, while keeping U.S. forces primarily in a support role. Mattis has committed to the overarching strategy of working “by, with, and through” partner forces, but has promised to restore combat firepower withdrawn by the Obama administration. In particular, this means employing NATO airpower to buttress the struggling Afghan forces in the same way the U.S.-led coalition is helping local fighters succeed in Iraq and Syria. But Mattis has also called for a more regional approach, which one senior official tells the Washington Examiner means “incentivizing” neighboring Pakistan to crack down on the notorious Haqqani network, a wing of of the Taliban that operates with impunity from the ungoverned border region of Pakistan. Afghanistan blames the Haqqani network for a massive truck bomb that killed 150 people near the German embassy in Kabul May 31, the country’s deadliest terror attack.
MORE TERROR IN LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May says the latest incident in which a van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians, including worshipers leaving a pair of London Mosques, is being treated as a terrorist attack. One man died at the scene, at least 10 were injured, and the driver of the van was arrested without further incident. London police say the attack has all the “hallmarks” of an act of terrorism. If that turns out to be the case, it would be the fourth terrorist attack since March in Britain, and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.
Good Monday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.
THE CHAIRMAN SPEAKS: Fresh off a week in which he largely played second-fiddle to his fellow Marine and now civilian boss Jim Mattis during congressional testimony, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford has the stage to himself today at the National Press Club. The nation’s top military officer delivers luncheon remarks around noon. Tickets required.
F-35 DECISION TODAY: The Air Force is set to make a decision today on whether F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona will return to the sky, said Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, 56th Fighter Wing commander. Leonard said the service is looking at altitude restrictions and safety measures that will allow the aircraft to fly, but still has not pinpointed why five F-35 pilots at the base reported oxygen deprivation incidents over the past five weeks. One of the affected pilots belongs to a visiting foreign military.
"If everything is deemed to lead us to safe flight and the pilots have confidence, the soonest we'd be able to return to flying would be Tuesday afternoon," Leonard told reporters Friday. "That's assuming everything goes well."
CRUNCH TIME FOR THE T-X: A deadline is looming next week for the decade's last undecided tactical jet competition, which carries high stakes and billions of dollars for the winner. Lockheed Martin and Boeing, neck and neck, are set to turn over flight performance data to the Air Force on their proposals for the T-X jet, the next combat training aircraft for the Air Force. With $16.3 billion at stake, a contract award is expected later this year. The new trainer will replace the T-38 Talon, an aging supersonic jet first used to train American pilots to fly airplanes deployed during the Vietnam War and the height of the Cold War. Defense heavy hitters such as Northrop Grumman and Raytheon dropped out of the T-X competition this year, leaving Lockheed and Boeing as the clear frontrunners for the contract, which includes a total of 350 trainers.
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS: The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Fitzgerald is back at its home port at Yokosuka, Japan, after it was severely damaged in a 2:30 a.m. collision Saturday in the busy shipping lanes off the coast of Japan. The Fitzgerald limped back to port under its own power with the help of seagoing tugs. The warship suffered extensive damage and flooding after it was rammed broadside by a much larger merchant ship. Seven U.S. sailors died after the Fitzgerald's hull was punctured below the water line, and seawater rapidly filled three large compartments including a machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 members of the crew. Much of the crew, including the CO, was asleep when the collision happened.
An investigation is underway. Among the the questions: why did the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal make a U-turn and reverse course in a major shipping lane, who was at the helm of the merchant ship, and why was the faster more nimble U.S. destroyer unable to take evasive action?
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said there was a real chance the Fitzgerald could have foundered and gone down. At a press conference in front of the wounded warship in Yokosuka, he credited the crew for their “heroic efforts” to save the ship. “I want to point out, as we stand by the ship, how proud I am of them,” Aucoin said.
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith vowed Sunday to "closely monitor the details" of collision. "This tragic event is a reminder of the way our country's finest are putting themselves at risk all over the world every day in defense of the United States," the Washington Democratic congressman said in a statement. "We will closely monitor the details of this incident and ensure that we can better understand how such accidents can be prevented in the future," Smith said.
SAILORS IDENTIFIED: The Navy has identified the seven sailors who were killed in the weekend accident:
-- Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va.
-- Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, Calif.
-- Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Conn.
-- Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
-- Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlosvictor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif.
-- Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md.
-- Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
HAPPENING TODAY: President Trump is back at the White House after spending Father's Day at Camp David, his first visit to the official presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin mountains, a rustic resort which he once dismissed as a place that would be boring after about 30 minutes. Trump is scheduled to meet today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as violence in eastern Ukraine has spiked over the past week, and separately with Panama’s president Juan Carlos Varela.
Oh, and upon further review, the president revised his assessment, tweeting “Camp David is a very special place. An honor to have spent the weekend there. Military runs it so well and are so proud of what they do!”
READY FOR THEIR CLOSEUP: The U.S. will be well represented at the Paris Air Show, which begins today Le Bourget, France. U.S. aircraft showcased this year include: two F-35A Lightning IIs, a CV-22 Osprey, a C-130J Super Hercules, a P-8 Poseidon, a CH-47 Chinook, an AH-64 Apache, two F-16 Fighting Falcons, and a KC-135R Stratotanker, according to the U.S. European Command.
Washington Post: Safety lapses undermine nuclear warhead work at Los Alamos
AP: Mother: Son tried to save Navy shipmates after collision
New York Times: As U.S. adds troops in Afghanistan, Trump’s strategy remains undefined
Reuters: Lockheed nears $37 billion-plus deal to sell F-35 jet to 11 countries
AP: Military hero McRaven having trouble as Texas chancellor
USA Today: Cease-fire takes hold in Syrian city as U.N., Russia plan peace talks
New York Times: North Korea accuses U.S. of ‘mugging’ its diplomats in New York
Foreign Policy: White House officials push for widening war in Syria over Pentagon objections
Reuters: NATO war game defends Baltic weak spot for first time
AP: If it flies or hovers, it will be at the Paris Air Show
Wall Street Journal: Top North Korea Nuclear Negotiator Secretly Met With U.S. Diplomats
MONDAY | JUNE 19
7 a.m. 2201 Cooperative Way. The climate for small businesses operating in the national security environment of a Trump presidency. ndia.org
11 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Discussion of the book The Forgotten Flight: Terrorism, Diplomacy and the Pursuit of Justice. wilsoncenter.org
11:30 a.m. 529 14th St. NW. Luncheon with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. press.org
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Documentary screening of “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS.” heritage.org
1 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The promise and momentum of U.S.-India defense and security cooperation. csis.org
1 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. How vulnerable is the United States to cybersecurity threats? cfr.org
2 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Book launch for Dean Acheson and the Obligations of Power. wilsoncenter.org
TUESDAY | JUNE 20
9:30 a.m. Dirksen G-50. Nomination of Pat Shanahan to be deputy defense secretary. armed-services.senate.gov
9:30 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. China’s emerging role in the world and U.S.-China relations. heritage.org
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The Russian military-industrial complex. csis.org
10 a.m. Dirksen 419. Reviewing congressional authorizations for the use of military force. foreign.senate.gov
12:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. The origins and evolution of ISIS in Libya. atlanticcouncil.org
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. A conversation with Michael McCaul about cybersecurity and homeland threats from Eastern Europe. cfr.org
5:30 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Debate on North Korea's nuclear program. csis.org
WEDNESDAY | JUNE 21
8 a.m. 2101 Wilson Blvd. Insider threat workshop. ndia.org
8:30 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Day 1 of a forum on the United States and Russia in the Arctic. wilsoncenter.org
9 a.m. Russell 232-A. Navy shipbuilding programs. armed-services.senate.gov
10 a.m. Hart 216. Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. intelligence.senate.gov
10 a.m. House Visitor Center 210. Russia Investigative Task Force hearing with former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. intelligence.house.gov
10:30 a.m. Dirksen 192. Review of the 2018 budget request for the Air Force with Secretary Heather Wilson and Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff. appropriations.senate.gov
10:30 a.m. Dirksen 342. Cybersecurity regulation harmonization. hsgac.senate.gov
2:30 p.m. Dirksen 124. Review of the 2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with Secretary David Shulkin. appropriations.senate.gov
2:30 p.m. Rayburn 2212. Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities budget markup. armedservices.house.gov
4 p.m. Rayburn 2118. Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces budget markup. armedservices.house.gov
THURSDAY | JUNE 22
8:30 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Day 2 of a forum on the United States and Russia in the Arctic. wilsoncenter.org
9 a.m. Rayburn 2212. Subcommittee on Readiness budget markup. armedservices.house.gov
9:30 a.m. Dirksen G-50. Nomination of Richard V. Spencer to be Navy secretary. armed-services.senate.gov
9:30 a.m. 1501 Lee Highway. State of electronic warfare in the DOD with William Conley, deputy director of electronic warfare, office of the under secretary of defense. mitchellaerospacepower.org
10:30 a.m. Rayburn 2118. Subcommittee on Strategic Forces budget markup. armedservices.house.gov
11 a.m. Senate Visitor Center 217. Closed hearing on recent developments in North Korea with Joseph Yun, special representative for North Korea policy and deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea And Japan. foreign.senate.gov
11:30 a.m. Rayburn 2212. Subcommittee on Military Personnel budget markup. armedservices.house.gov
12:30 p.m. Rayburn 2118. Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces budget markup. armedservices.house.gov
1 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A conversation with Vice President Mike Pence. wilsoncenter.org
FRIDAY | JUNE 23
11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Opportunities and challenges of a nuclear posture review. heritage.org
MONDAY | JUNE 26
12:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Rising Chinese FDI in Latin America and the implications for the United States. atlanticcouncil.org
2 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Korean War, the “forgotten war,” remembered. wilsoncenter.org
5:30 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. Foreign Service: Five decades on the frontlines of American diplomacy. brookings.edu