AUMF VOTE KICKS OFF DEFENSE BILL: Persistence may be paying off for Sen. Rand Paul. When the Senate begins debate of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act today, Paul is slated to get a floor vote on his amendment giving Congress six months to replace two existing authorizations for the use of military force, or AUMFs, which have been used since 9/11 as legal justification to wage military operations around the globe. If the Senate follows through, it could be one of the first AUMF floor votes since 2002. Paul argues Congress is ceding its constitutional war powers while successive administrations wage military operations in places such as Libya, Somalia and Syria. “Let’s have a full-throated and heartfelt debate over whether we should be at war, and where,” Paul said during floor debate Tuesday. He held up consideration of the NDAA bill in July while wrangling with Sen. John McCain, the Armed Services chairman who had just returned from brain surgery, over whether his AUMF proposal would get a vote. Now, the annual must-pass bill is moving forward and so is his proposal, but its chances on the Senate floor remain murky.
Sen. Tim Kaine, one of the top Senate backers of a new AUMF, supports the Paul amendment, saying Tuesday the current interpretation of existing authorizations “essentially allow an American president without any approval from Congress to wage war anywhere, against any terrorist group, for however long they want to.” But Sen. Jeff Flake, who co-sponsored a bill with Kaine this year to create a new AUMF and is among the shrinking group of original lawmakers who voted for war in 2001 and 2002, said he will not support Paul’s proposal because it does not include a replacement authorization.
Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, echoed Flake’s concern in a kind of initial closing argument Tuesday evening. “I think it would be read as a signal that the Senate has essentially declared that in six months we are going to deauthorize our military efforts,” he said. “The headlines in Baghdad, and the headlines in Kabul and the headlines in Damascus would be ‘U.S. moves to end engagement.’ ” Reed said it would be a “lever of propaganda” for the country’s enemies. Approving Paul’s amendment also would mean the Pentagon must almost immediately begin planning for possible withdrawal due to the long lead time needed for the military movements. “Unless we could do something next week, we would be running into the reality of American military commanders wondering whether or not they should begin to plan for the extraction of our forces and the closing of our facilities and these bases,” Reed said.
MORE NDAA: Meanwhile, the Senate will continue work on the National Defense Authorization Act as McCain takes to the Senate floor to shepherd debate (he received the green light Tuesday from doctors to continue working on the Hill during his cancer treatment). Other amendments are filed that would clear the way for military base closures, block President Trump’s ban on transgender military service, and add more Navy littoral combat ships to the defense bill. McCain said he plans to strip language from the NDAA authorizing defense spending that would have expanded U.S. military cooperation with Myanmar.
After being passed by his Armed Services committee in June, the NDAA had included the new military-to-military funding amid hopes the country was moving to a more open government, but McCain said the situation has “changed dramatically” and the country is now involved in ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya minority. “The international community has called upon Aung San Suu Kyi — who has long been a source of inspiration for democracy — to stop the violence and hold human rights abusers accountable, but there has been no action to-date,” he said.
TRAINING IN JEOPARDY: McCain asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for more ammunition in the senator’s battle over the wisdom of passing another continuing resolution, and Mattis delivered in spades. In a five-page memo, Mattis laid out the dire consequences of the stopgap funding measure passed last week that delays any increase in the Pentagon budget until at least the end of the year. McCain released the letter in the hope of convincing his congressional colleagues that years of warnings about the detrimental effects repeated continuing resolutions will be taken seriously when the issue comes up again in December.
“Secretary Mattis said that the impacts of a continuing resolution are felt immediately by our military and will grow exponentially over time. In the next three months, the Navy will delay ship inductions [maintenance] and reduce flying hours, the Army will postpone maintenance, and the Air Force will limit execution of infrastructure funding,” McCain said in a statement. “All services will delay training and curtail recruitment – leaving, according to Secretary Mattis, ‘critical gaps in the workforce skill set.’ ”
The essential elements of readiness are training, equipment and maintenance, and all will begin to suffer “within the first 30 days of a CR,” according to the Mattis memo. “By 90 days, the lost training is unrecoverable due to subsequent scheduled training events.” He gave numerous examples, including one from his own Marine Corps, saying the scope of live-fire field training exercises will have to be reduced, “limiting weapons crews to firing at levels that firing tables specify as necessary to maintain certification,” but foregoing additional training of firing weapon systems in a joint operational context. “Without this experience, the Marines would then enter their major exercises and training rotations without the benefit of having practiced coordinating joint fires, or the experience of firing in an operational environment,” Mattis said.
DEFERRED MAINTENANCE: The Navy will delay scheduled maintenance on 11 ships – including five destroyers, three cruisers and a littoral combat ship – between November and February, which Mattis said will have a cascading effect on future deployment rotations. The Army will see $400 million less funding per month, be forced to defer buying supplies and "later have to pay more to get parts fabricated or shipped quickly.” The Air Force must cancel exercises as well as put off creating two additional training squadrons and growing its force, leaving it "unable to train the number of pilots necessary for continued readiness recovery,” Mattis said.
LIFT THE CAPS: In his letter, Mattis urged Congress to use the extra negotiating time to eliminate what he deems the root problem, annual caps on federal spending that have held down the defense budget since 2013. "In the long-term, it is the budget caps mandated by the Budget Control Act that impose the greatest threat to the department and to national security," Mattis wrote. “Congress’s vote to begin the year on yet another continuing resolution is inexcusable,” McCain said. “We must not repeat this mistake in December.”
Good Wednesday 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.
MATTIS TOURS NUKE BASES: Mattis takes off this morning for a short trip that will take him to a domestic nuclear base, the headquarters of the commander of U.S. nuclear forces, and ends with a stop in Mexico City, which was just hit by an earthquake. Mattis’ nuclear tour comes as the Pentagon is nearing completion of two separate reviews: one on America's nuclear posture, the other on the state of U.S. ballistic missile defenses. The Pentagon says the visits were scheduled before the latest nuclear test by North Korea, its most powerful blast to date.
First stop for Mattis is Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, the only U.S. base to host two legs of the nuclear triad, B-52 bombers and land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. He will tour an underground missile alert facility where missileers maintain a 24/7 watch, ready to fire nuclear-tipped ICBMs on orders of the president, as well inspecting a weapons storage area where airmen maintain nuclear warheads.
Tomorrow, Mattis goes to the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command to discuss “strategic deterrence in the 21st century,” which includes nuclear, space, cyberspace, global strike, missile defense and other capabilities.
Then on Friday, Mattis will participate in the Mexican Independence Day activities, in Mexico City, with a visit that’s intended to show U.S. commitment to the bilateral defense relationship with Mexico and to the North America community.
UPDATING THE ARSENAL: While the nuclear posture review is still underway, there seems little doubt the Trump administration is on board with the current plan to rebuild all three legs of the nuclear triad at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over 30 years. The Pentagon has already awarded a nearly $700 million contract to Northrop Grumman and Boeing for further development of replacement for the Cold War-era Minuteman III ICBM. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have also been awarded $1.8 billion to work on a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile. The Navy is well underway with its plans for a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines to replace its aging Ohio class subs, and the Air Force is proceeding with development of the B-21 Raider, a next-generation nuclear-capable bomber.
POSSIBLE SALE TO CANADA: The Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced yesterday that the State Department approved the possible sale of 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets (10 of the single-seat E model and eight of the two-seat F model) to Canada. The sale is worth up to $5.23 billion. Canada already flies the CF-18 Hornet.
Ottawa had been on track to purchase Lockheed Martin F-35s, but as debate continues over whether the government will commit to the expensive aircraft, the country does have the option of buying Super Hornets. No decision has been made yet, and the DSCA approval merely paves the way for Canada to buy the Boeing jets if it decides to go that route.
MOVING TOMAHAWK TARGETS: Raytheon announced yesterday it won a $119 million contract to work on a seeker for the Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile that would allow it to hit moving maritime targets. Raytheon is expected to deliver the capability by 2022.
“The U.S. Navy and Raytheon are working closely together to further enhance this modern missile, keeping Tomahawk in the fleet for decades to come,” said Capt. Mark Johnson, Tomahawk program manager at Naval Air Systems Command. “No other weapon on Earth can match this cruise missile’s capability. Proven thousands of times in combat, Tomahawk is the nation's weapon of choice.”
NO BIG DEAL: Remember those North Korea sanctions that U.S. the ambassador worked so hard to get through the U.N. Security Council Monday? Trump’s reaction was a version of “meh.” As cameras rolled at the beginning of a White House meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Trump said he had no idea if the toughest sanctions to date would have “any impact” on Kim Jong Un. "We think it's just another very small step – not a big deal. Rex [Tillerson] and I were just discussing not knowing if it has any impact, but it's nice to get a 15-to-nothing vote. Those sanctions are nothing compared to ultimately what will have to happen," Trump said.
At the Pentagon yesterday, Mattis was a little more circumspect. "These are the most severe sanctions yet laid on North Korea and we'll see what choices the North Koreans make," Mattis said at a photo op with the Portuguese defense minister.
OFF WITH HIS HEAD: If sanctions don’t get Kim’s attention, maybe a new South Korean commando unit will. The New York Times reports this morning that South Korea’s defense minister has informed lawmakers in Seoul that a special forces “decapitation unit” would be established by the end of the year. “Defense officials said the unit could conduct cross-border raids with retooled helicopters and transport planes that could penetrate North Korea at night,” the Times reported.
NORTH KOREA’S SMUGGLING NETWORK: Trump's team released details of how North Korean smuggling networks run through China and Russia, as part of a public campaign to tighten international pressure on the regime. The information, typically tightly-guarded, was obtained by U.S. intelligence officials and provided to Congress through the Treasury Department. The public display of images tracking coal-smuggling ships builds a case that Russia and China are undermining international pressure campaigns, despite voting for the sanctions packages at the U.N. Security Council.
“As part of efforts to acquire revenue, the regime employs deceptive shipping practices to conceal the true origin of goods,” Marshall Billingslea, the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for terrorist financing, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Pyongyang falsifies the identity of vessels to make it harder for governments to determine if ships docking in their ports are linked to North Korea.
“For instance, in June, we designated Dalian Global Unity, a Chinese company that apparently was transferring about 700,000 tons of freight annually between China and North Korea,” Billingslea testified, sharing evidence of how vessels that originate in China turn off their transponders as they move into North Korean waters, and then dock at North Korean ports, where they on-load commodities such as coal.
IS CHINA NEXT? The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Tuesday that the U.S. may need to impose economic sanctions against China to ensure that country puts the right kind of pressure on North Korea in the wake of its missile and nuclear testing. Chairman Ed Royce held a hearing Tuesday with officials from the Departments of State and Treasury, and agreed with comments from other lawmakers that the next step after this week's round of U.N. sanctions might be more economic pressure on China.
"It's been a long, long time of waiting for China to comply with the sanctions we pass and frankly with the sanctions that the United Nations passed," Royce said. "This is where the discussion needs to go next, if there isn't full compliance with the sanctions that the U.N. have passed, because what's at risk is our national security."
A PERFECT PITCH: Let’s end with this fantastic tweet from Military.com’s Hope Hodge Seck yesterday: “I'm starting an a capella group entirely made up of D.C. defense reporters called Pentagonix. DM me if interested. But not really.”
Reuters: Trump says tougher steps needed on North Korea after new U.N. sanctions
Breaking Defense: Making T-Rex Run: Can SOCOM’s Geurts Speed Up Navy Shipbuilding?
UPI: Rolls-Royce plans fully autonomous long-range naval vessel
New York Times: Turkey Agrees To Buy Russian Missile System, Pivoting From NATO
Politico: Senate Dems to unveil plan to protect Dreamers in the military
War on the Rocks: Why no general should serve as White House chief of staff
Washington Post: President Trump just gushed about the Coast Guard. It really needed the boost.
USNI News: GAO recommends smarter planning for naval shipyard upgrades amid growing backlog of yard repairs, modernization
Defense News: Air Force approves use of Magpul’s signature polymer magazine
Task and Purpose: Did Russia just drop its ‘father of all bombs’ in Syria? Here’s what we know
Air Force Times: Future of JSTARS recap program in question as Air Force explores other options
Wall Street Journal: Russia conducts drills ahead of exercise that has sparked NATO concerns
Foreign Policy: The Pentagon is spending $2 billion running Soviet-era guns to Syrian rebels
Military.com: Air Force's monthly bombing campaign in Afghanistan hits 5-year high
WEDNESDAY | SEPT. 13
9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The United States, the Soviet Union, and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty of 1966-1968. wilsoncenter.org
9 a.m. 1152 15th St. NW. A conversation with Rep. Adam Smith on Russia, the military and emerging threats. cnas.org
9:30 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Asia disaster response and cybersecurity in a time of rising challenges and constrained resources. wilsoncenter.org
10 a.m. House Visitor Center 210. Sixteen years after 9/11: Assessing suspicious activity reporting efforts. homeland.house.gov
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Liberal democracy as the path to greater security with Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott. brookings.edu
10 a.m. 2172 Rayburn. Joint subcommittee hearing on the president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for Afghanistan and Pakistan with Alice G. Wells, acting assistant secretary of state. foreignaffairs.house.gov
11 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A book discussion on James Reston, Jr.’s “A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial.” wilsoncenter.org
11 a.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Intellectuals and a century of political hero worship from Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez. cato.org
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. How political neglect is choking American seapower and what to do about it with Seth Cropsey, former deputy undersecretary of the Navy. heritage.org
2 p.m. 2200 Rayburn. The malicious influence of state and criminal actors in the Venezuela crisis. foreignaffairs.house.gov
3:30 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Why Iraq and Libya failed to build nuclear weapons. wilsoncenter.org
THURSDAY | SEPT. 14
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Cyber warfare in the maritime domain with Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare. csis.org
10 a.m. 419 Dirksen. U.S. policy options to support democracy in Venezuela with Marshall Billingslea, assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing. foreign.senate.gov
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The USS Baltimore incident of 1891 and how history informs present problems. csis.org
12 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Exposing and countering Iran. atlanticcouncil.org
5 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Global threats, global perspectives and America’s role in the world. atlanticcouncil.org
FRIDAY | SEPT. 15
9:15 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Europe and the U.S.: The old order faces a new world with Victoria Nuland, former assistant secretary of state. brookings.edu
9:30 a.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. Voices from Japan and visions for Japan’s future defense posture. stimson.org
10 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A united front? U.S.-Japan relations at a time of uncertainty. wilsoncenter.org
MONDAY | SEPT. 18
2 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. The impact of the Trump administration on U.S.-Taiwan relations. stimson.org
3 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. U.S. policy toward Lebanon and what comes next. heritage.org
4 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Mobilizing the Russian nation during World War I with historian Melissa K. Stockdale. wilsoncenter.org
4 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. China's Arctic and Antarctic ambitions. wilsoncenter.org
TUESDAY | SEPT. 19
2 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. U.S.-Canadian defense industrial cooperation with Frank Kendall, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Martin Zablocki, CEO of Canadian Commercial Corporation. csis.org
WEDNESDAY | SEPT. 20
6:30 a.m. 1800 Jefferson Davis Hwy. Special topic breakfast with Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of Navy surface warfare. navyleague.org
4:45 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. A conversation with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, prime minister of Pakistan. cfr.org