Overnight Defense: Inside the $733B House defense policy bill | Senators take new tack to challenge Saudi arms sales | Raytheon, United Technologies to merge
Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.
THE TOPLINE: The week defense watchers wait for all year is here.
The House Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday in a marathon session most are predicting will go well past midnight.
Ahead of the markup, the committee on Monday released the draft of the bill known as the “Chairman’s Mark.”
The full text is here, a Democratic summary is here and a Republican summary is here.
Here are a few of the highlights:
Dems seek to block border wall: The bill would prohibit using any Pentagon funding for a border wall.
The prohibition on using funds for a wall, fence or other physical barrier is one of several provisions in response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel seeks to block Pentagon funds for border wall Giuliani evokes Joseph McCarthy in criticism of Pelosi Giuliani evokes Joseph McCarthy in criticism of Pelosi MORE‘s repeated use of the military to fulfill his campaign pledge to build a wall on the southern border.
“The majority members feel strongly that Department of Defense money should not be used for border security,” a committee staffer told reporters ahead of the bill’s release.
No Space Force, yet: The bill right now does not touch President Trump’s Space Force proposal.
But on Monday morning, committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHouse defense bill sets stage for contentious nuclear debate Overnight Defense: US ratchets up pressure on Turkey over F-35 | Near-collision between Russia, US warships | West Point cadet identified Overnight Defense: US ratchets up pressure on Turkey over F-35 | Near-collision between Russia, US warships | West Point cadet identified MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters Democrats and Republicans worked out an amendment that will be offered during Wednesday’s debate. The amendment closely follows the committee’s 2017 proposal for a space corps, he added.
“This is not President Trump’s idea,” Smith said. “I hope Democrats understand that of the many, many, many bad ideas that this president has had and the many bad things that he has done and the many ways that we should challenge him — don’t think of this as, well, if you’re for the Space Force that means you 100 percent support President Trump.”
Nuclear fight ahead: The bill would require an independent study on the United States adopting a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons.
Nuclear issues are shaping up to be among the most contentious issues as Congress debates this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with Republicans already coming out strongly against what’s in the bill.
The bill does not go as far as Smith has opined about in the past. But it does seek to “start that debate” about the appropriate size and cost of the nuclear arsenal, staffers told reporters ahead of the bill’s release.
“The chairman feels strongly that the nuclear arsenal is too large, that we spend too much money on legacy weapons systems when we have emerging requirements like cyber, like [artificial intelligence], like space, which aren’t getting the kind of focus that’s required, and he wants to reevaluate where we’re spending money, if we’re going to have another money to spend on these emerging things that are coming out,” a staffer said.
The bill would also cut $103 million from the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), the in-development intercontinental ballistic missile meant to replace the Minuteman III. It also requires a report on options to extend the life of the Minuteman III to 2050.
Topline: The bill would authorize a fiscal 2020 defense budget of $733 billion, which covers the Pentagon and Department of Energy nuclear programs.
The Trump administration proposed a $750 billion defense budget. Republicans argue that’s the minimum needed to ensure the U.S. military is ready to counter Russia and China, citing defense officials’ testimony on the need for 3 to 5 percent year-over-year budget growth.
But Smith cited the fact that up until earlier this year, the Pentagon had planned for a $733 defense budget for fiscal 2020.
“I am genuinely concerned, and I think we have enough history with the Pentagon to see it in the past, when they’ve been given more money than perhaps they expected, there is a lot of inefficiency and waste that follows,” Smith said.
Republican views: A senior Republican committee aide told reporters later Monday afternoon the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mac Thornbery (Texas), and other GOP members have not yet made a decision on how they will vote.
Issues that would “trigger a special look” for Republicans if they stay in the bill as is include the topline dollar figure and nuclear issues, as well as readiness and military personnel accounts, the Republican aide said.
ANOTHER FORCED SAUDI VOTE: A bipartisan pair of senators is looking to force a vote on all aspects of U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of actions from lawmakers increasingly fed up with the Trump administration’s support for Riyadh.
Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators take bipartisan step toward blocking Trump’s Saudi arms sales Senators take bipartisan step toward blocking Trump’s Saudi arms sales Senators look to force vote on all security assistance to Saudis MORE (D-Conn.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators look to force vote on all security assistance to Saudis Senators look to force vote on all security assistance to Saudis Overnight Defense: Senators plan 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sale | Trump defends transgender military plan | Trump, lawmakers prep to mark D-Day anniversary MORE (R-Ind.) are introducing a resolution to require the administration to report on Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices, the first step in forcing a vote on the security assistance.
“This administration has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis–turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand,” Murphy said in a statement. “Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom. The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’s role in foreign policy making.”
Under the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, Congress can vote to request the administration provide information within 30 days on a particular country’s human rights practices. Once Congress receives the human rights report, it can vote to end any aspect of security assistance to that country.
Context: Murphy and Young’s measure comes after senators last week introduced 22 resolutions to block the arms sales Trump used emergency powers to approve for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The pair are co-sponsors of those resolutions too.
Over the weekend, your Overnight Defense correspondent took a look at the dynamic in the Senate on the arms sales and how senators are ramping up their efforts to stop them.
Catch up on that report here.
RAYTHEON, UT AGREE TO MERGER: Raytheon and United Technologies announced Sunday they have agreed to a merger that would create one of the largest aerospace and defense companies in the country.
The new company, which will be called Raytheon Technologies, anticipates annual revenue of $74 billion if approved.
The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020.
Trump weighs in: Trump expressed some skepticism about the merger during an interview with CNBC on Monday.
“I’m a little concerned about United Technologies and Raytheon … We used to have many plane companies. They’ve all merged. Now we have very few,” he said.
Trump added that overlap in similar products “would be the thing that bothers me most.”
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the crisis in Nicaragua at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. https://bit.ly/2F1UhoO
— The Hill: Former Trump chief of staff Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusInside the DNC’s plan to defeat Trump Nadler subpoenas Hope Hicks and McGahn’s former aide for testimony Mueller didn’t want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories MORE officially joins Navy
— The Hill: White House to award Medal of Honor to first living recipient from Iraq War
— The Hill: Trump officials pressure Turkey to dump Russian missile system
— The Hill: Opinion: America should let Europe build its own military
— Associated Press: Stern words from Iran: US cannot ‘expect to stay safe’
— The Wall Street Journal: North Korean leader’s slain half-brother was a CIA informant
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