TRUMP ON SHUTDOWN, ‘I DON’T KNOW’: The optimism over a budget deal that would unlock this year’s funding for the Pentagon has once again turned to gloom as Democrats and Republicans bicker over whether President Trump poisoned the negotiations over protections for “Dreamers” with a vulgar remark and a racially explosive comment about preferring Norwegian immigrants over those from “shithole countries.”
The president denies making the controversial comments at a closed-door meeting with bipartisan members of Congress, and so far not one Republican has publicly confirmed that those words ever passed the president’s lips. Only Sen. Dick Durbin, the meeting's lone Democrat, has said Trump made the remark repeatedly, a charge that has provoked international condemnation, and damaged the U.S. reputation around the world.
On ABC, Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, essentially said Durbin was lying. “I'm saying that this is a gross misrepresentation, it's not the first time Senator Durbin has done it, and it is not productive to solving the problem that we have at hand,” Perdue said. Trump said last night: “Did you see what the senators in the room said about my comments? They weren't made."
TALKS DERAILED: Whether Trump said it, or something like it, or didn’t say it, the partisan sniping has once again dashed hopes of a quick resolution to the budget impasse that continues to hobble the Pentagon. Democrats have dug in, insisting there must be a restoration of the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals protection and parity between military and domestic spending increases for any deal to get through the Senate.
Last night, Trump cast the Democrats, who hold the leverage because of the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate, as the bad guys. “The Democrats are the ones that aren't going to make a deal,” Trump said. “I don't know if there will be a shutdown. There shouldn't be because if there is our military gets hurt very badly. We cannot let our military be hurt.”
When Congress comes back tomorrow, lawmakers will have only four days to find a solution or pass yet another continuing resolution that would keep tight spending limits in place.
FALSE ALARM, REAL TERROR: It’s hard to imagine what went through the minds of Hawaiians Saturday morning when the false alert of incoming missiles traumatized, if not terrorized, residents who scrambled to take cover. If nothing else, the embarrassing human error provided a real-world test of whether the average Hawaiian was truly prepared for a worst-case scenario.
The emergency management officer who was said to have pushed a wrong button during a shift change has been reassigned, and while Hawaiian state officials, including Gov. David Ige, have promised a new set of protocols and safeguards to ensure against a repeat, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai slammed the state's government for lacking "reasonable safeguards or process controls" to prevent the mistake. “The false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawaii was absolutely unacceptable," Pai wrote in a statement. "It caused a wave of panic across the state — worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued. … Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies," he added.
The FCC is investigating how the alerts were erroneously sent to Hawaiian cellphones, television stations, and radio channels using the "Emergency Alert System" and "Wireless Emergency Alerts" program.
TRUST US NEXT TIME: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says Saturday’s “very unfortunate mistake” should not keep people from trusting government alert systems. “I would hate for anybody not to abide by alert warnings coming from government systems,” she said on Fox News Sunday. “They can trust government systems, we test them every day. This is a very unfortunate mistake. But these alerts are vital, seconds and minutes can save lives.”
But Nielsen also says the debacle points out that people need clear instructions about not just the threat, but also what actions they can take to protect themselves. “From a DHS perspective, we are looking with state and locals to ensure not only that the messaging is clear, but what to do next is clear as well, how we can best support them and work with them.
BEWARE THE ‘I’Ds’ OF TRUMP: The White House is asking for a correction, claiming the Wall Street Journal misquoted the president as saying, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.” The White House says the president was not speaking in the present tense, but actually employing what grammarians call the “future unreal conditional,” tense, as in “I would probably have a very good relationship in the future.”
Or as the president himself put it in a tweet yesterday: “The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them ‘I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un’ (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn't say that. I said ‘I'd have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters … and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!”
When the Journal reports followed up with a request for a clarification about whether Trump has ever talked to Kim, the president blew them off. “I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t,” he said. Trump also refused to answer that question last night.
THE TALE OF THE TAPE: So did he say “I” or “I’d?” Both the White House and the Wall Street Journal released recordings of the exchange with Journal reporters. The Journal’s audio is the clearer of the two recordings, and seems to support the Journal’s version of the quote. “We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported,” the newspaper said in a tweet.
The White House recording is a little harder to hear, and if you really are determined you might hear something that sounds like “I’d.” Listen for yourself at the above links, not that it really has much bearing on what’s going with North Korea, which continued with a second round of lower-level talks today to hammer out details about its participation in the Winter Olympics in the South. “We'll see what happens with North Korea,” Trump said last night. “We have great talks going on. The Olympics you know about. Lot of things can happen.’
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.
HAPPENING TODAY: Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday, and the Pentagon like most federal agencies, is closed. Except that in the Pentagon’s case, several thousand of the building’s 24,000 workers are at their desks as usual, in particular at the National Military Command Center in the sub-basement of the building, which operates 24/7.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is also working. Mattis leaves today for Vancouver, Canada, where he will participate in the welcome dinner of the Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula. “Discussions will focus on advancing and strengthening diplomatic efforts toward a secure, prosperous and denuclearized Korean peninsula,” said a Pentagon statement.
Tomorrow Mattis visits Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, home of the 366th Fighter Wing, known as the "Gunfighters."
WASP ARRIVES WITH NEW STING: The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, freshly upgraded to launch and land the Marine version of the F-35 joint strike fighter, has reported for duty at its new homeport in Japan on Sunday. The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant replaces the old Harrier jump jets, which could also takeoff and land vertically.
“The arrival of USS Wasp represents an increase in military capability and a commitment to our partners and allies for security and stability in the region,” Capt. Colby Howard, Wasp commanding officer, said in a Navy release. “Paired with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, we remain ready to execute the full range of military operations from crisis response to disaster relief.”
The arrival is part of a long-planned homeport swap with the USS Bonhomme Richard, which will head to San Diego after a patrol, the Navy said. You can see video of the ship arriving here.
NOT SO SPECIAL: Britain's Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on a British chat show yesterday that he no longer thinks America is Britain's most important ally, reports The Times of London. “The Labour leader also heaped censure on President Trump for his ‘endless offensive’ comments about women, minorities and people from other faiths,” the paper said.
LAWMAKERS DING TRUMP ON CLIMATE CHANGE: House lawmakers are charging Trump with discrediting “those who deal in scientific fact” by omitting climate change from his recently released National Security Strategy. A group of 106 members, mostly Democrats, sent the critique in a letter to the president. “As global temperatures become more volatile, sea levels rise and landscapes change, our military installations and our communities are increasingly at risk of devastation. It is imperative that the U.S. address this growing geopolitical threat,” wrote the group, which was led by Reps. Jim Langevin and Elise Stefanik, the leaders of the House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee.
Trump abandoned the previous administration’s focus on climate change in his security strategy unveiled in December, choosing instead to talk about the U.S. business climate. But just days earlier, the president had signed the annual National Defense Authorization Act that was written by a Republican-controlled Congress and identifies climate change as a “direct threat” to national security. “Failing to recognize this threat in your national security strategy represents a significant step backwards on this issue and discredits those who deal in scientific fact,” the House members wrote.
AN AVALANCHE OF STRATEGY DOCUMENTS: Over the next month or so, the Pentagon’s big thinkers will be producing a blizzard of strategy papers beginning with this week’s release of the National Defense Strategy (set for Friday), and continuing with the Nuclear Posture Review, the Ballistic Missile Defense Review, the Bio-Defense Review and of course, the fiscal 2019 budget. We have put together a handy clip-and-save guide to help you survive the blizzard.
KITCHEN JOINS HERITAGE: The Heritage Foundation has added a new member to its national security team. Klon Kitchen, the former national security adviser to Sen. Ben Sasse, joins the think tank’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy and will focus on the roles of cybersecurity, science and technology in public policy. “Kitchen, who also has two decades of experience in the intelligence world, including several years at the Central Intelligence Agency, will look to advance this conversation and we are excited to have him join the team,” said James Carafano, vice president of the Davis Institute.
HEY CNN, GET WITH THE TIMES! CNN needs to update its video archive. This morning in a story about the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review, it aired file aerial footage of the Pentagon that was clearly from before the turn of the century. Instead of the 9/11 Memorial on the west side of the building, you could see the heliport that was there before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Pentagon has free aerial footage that shows the Pentagon as it looks today.
Foreign Policy: A New American Leader Rises in ISIS
Reuters: U.S.-led coalition helps to build new Syrian force, angering Turkey
New York Times: The Interpreter: Hawaii False Alarm Hints at Thin Line Between Mishap and Nuclear War
New York Times: Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea
Politico: Gabbard: Trump should talk to North Korea 'immediately' after Hawaii false alarm
Washington Post: U.S. military history is rich with immigrants who left the countries Trump disparaged and sacrificed in combat
AP: Islamic State group offshoot claims 2017 Niger attack on US
USNI News: DIY Drone Attacks on Russian, Saudi Targets Signal Change in Fight Against Militant Groups
Wall Street Journal: Opaque Joint Ventures Help North Korea Evade Crackdown
DoD Buzz: Navy's Stealthy Mega-Destroyer Still Doesn't Have a Round for Its Gun
Defense News: Russia’s nuclear underwater drone is real and in the Nuclear Posture Review
TUESDAY | JAN. 16
8 a.m. 2401 M St. NW. Defense Writers Group breakfast with Rep. Mac Thornberry. defensewriters.gwu.edu
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Pakistan, America, and extremism: The path ahead. brookings.edu
12 p.m. 1800 M St. NW. National Security in the Age of Blockchain. defenddemocracy.org
12:15 p.m. 740 15th St. NW. The Future of Euro-Atlantic Conditionality. newamerica.org
12:30 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Iran Protests: Consequences for the Region and Opportunities for the Trump Administration. hudson.org
3 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Raised Stakes: U.S. Policy Toward Iran in 2018. wilsoncenter.org
3 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. Emergency Management in Japan: Prospects for US-Japan Cooperation. stimson.org
5:30 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The View of the U.S. from Abroad: A Conversation with International Ambassadors. csis.org
WEDNESDAY | JAN. 17
6:30 a.m. AUSA Institute of Land Warfare breakfast with Gen. Mark Milley, Army chief of staff. ausa.org
6:45 a.m. 1800 Jefferson Davis Hwy. Special Topic Breakfast with Gloria Valdez, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for ship programs. navyleague.org
8:30 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Congress and the 2018 national security landscape: A conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham. aei.org
9:30 a.m. Press Briefing: Previewing the Upcoming National Defense Strategy. csis.org
9:30 a.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. Getting Ahead of the Threat Curve: Duty of Care and Organizational Accountability for Nuclear Security with Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security secretary. stimson.org
10 a.m. Rayburn 2154. Battlefield successes and challenges with recent efforts to win the war against ISIS. oversight.house.gov
11:30 a.m. Hart 216. Open Hearing on the Nomination of Michael Atkinson to be Inspector General of the Intelligence Community and Jason Klitenic to be General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. intelligence.senate.gov
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order. heritage.org
2 p.m. Rayburn 2172. Joint Subcommittee Hearing. More Than a Nuclear Threat: North Korea’s Chemical, Biological, and Conventional Weapons. foreignaffairs.house.gov
2 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. NATO's maritime frontier and a view from its maritime command with Vice Adm. Clive Johnstone, Royal Navy commander Allied Maritime Command. atlanticcouncil.org
THURSDAY | JAN. 18
7:30 a.m. 300 First St. SE. AFA Breakfast Series with Matt Donovan, undersecretary of the Air Force. michelleaerospacepower.org
8 a.m. 2121 Crystal Dr. Electronics Division Meeting. ndia.org
8:45 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Defending Defense: A Conversation with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Military Readiness. csis.org
10 a.m. 1225 I St. NW. Citizen Soldiers or Warrior Caste: Who Will Serve in America’s Future Military? A discussion with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Amber Smith, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for outreach; and others. bipartisanpolicy.org
11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave NE. Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific. heritage.org
12 p.m. 444 North Capitol St. Press briefing and launch of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service.
12 p.m. 1800 M St. NW. Atilla, Zarrab, and U.S.-Turkish Relations. defenddemocracy.org
12:30 p.m. 2101 Constitution Ave. NW. Air Force Science and Technology Engagement Summit with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. nationalacademies.org
3:30 p.m. Rayburn 2118. Surface warfare at a crossroads with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations. armedservices.house.gov
5 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave NE. The Importance of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent. heritage.org
FRIDAY | JAN. 19
9 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Iran Looks East conference. atlanticcouncil.org
12:15 p.m. 740 15th St. NW. The Syrian Opposition in 2018 with Osama Abu Zayd, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, and moderator Peter Bergen, director of the International Security Program at New America. newamerica.org
MONDAY | JAN. 22
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Charting a New Course for the Defense Industrial Base. csis.org
4:30 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Book discussion of “1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder” with author Arthur Herman. hudson.org