Today's D Brief: Capitol Police request Guard extension; SecDef’s new message; Ending AUMF?; US freezes Myanmar cash; And a bit more.
The National Guard’s mission at the U.S. Capitol could be extended by 60 days, the Associated Press reported Thursday, triggering outrage among at least one key Republican lawmaker while Guard planners are asking around for volunteers to fill the possible need. Presently there are more than 5,000 Guard members deployed to Washington, D.C., on an assignment with an end date of next Friday, March 12. The new request would cover just under half of those, or 2,200 troops.
A new date to watch: May 20, which comes from another QAnon conspiracy theory that suggests POTUS45 will return to power with the help of the military. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are monitoring with that date in mind, Axios reported Wednesday, sharing an intelligence bulletin elaborating on why the “National Capital Region Remains [an] Attractive Target for Domestic Violent Extremists.”
Capitol Police requested the National Guard extension, and that request is now under review at the Pentagon, according to AP.
Next up: The question will be decided “by the Capitol Police and the Police Board,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, according to Politico. “We should have them here as long as they are needed,” Pelosi said.
At least one top Republican is open to the idea. That’d be Sen. Roy Blunt, ranking member of the Rules Committee. Blunt said Thursday, “I do think that some active military police guard in a more permanent basis near the Capitol could be a good idea for the foreseeable future, principally because they would actually be able to relieve the Capitol Police.”
- Reminder: Some uniformed service members stayed at the Capitol for nearly two years after the 9/11 attacks, Blunt said Thursday.
But the Senate’s top Armed Services Committee Republican says he’s livid over the possible extension. “I’m outraged that U.S. Capitol Police have requested to keep the nearly 5,000 National Guardsmen at the Capitol Complex for another two months without presenting clear and specific information,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a lengthy statement Thursday evening. “I haven’t been satisfied with any explanation Congress has received at numerous briefings that all these personnel, resources and barbed wire are needed. The Capitol Police have clearly stated that no specific credible threat exists — and what’s more, they haven’t provided the Department of Defense with any of the information needed to justify this request.
“Keeping the Capitol Complex safe…is a federal civilian law enforcement responsibility,” Inhofe said. “We can and should make improvements to how the Capitol Police protect the building, and there are plenty of options available to us, such as changes to the U.S. Capitol Police force structure, availability of a non-military quick reaction force and mobile fencing. What this solution should not look like is keeping the National Guardsmen here indefinitely, as has been rumored. This is not their job or their mission — and the image this would paint on the world stage is concerning.” More where that came from, here.
“We all have the same goal,” said former Pentagon official, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. And that goal, she said in a tweet Thursday, is “to get back to the point where Capitol Police is capable of protecting us without the Guard’s help, and all parties feel confident we can protect the people’s business.”
The Senate’s new sergeant-at-arms will be retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson, Roll Call reported Wednesday. “The sergeant-at-arms oversees a host of Senate functions, from security to information technology services.” Relatedly, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “tapped Senate veteran Kelly Fado as deputy sergeant-at-arms and Jennifer Hemingway as chief of staff, marking the first time in the history of the SAA office that the leadership will be composed entirely of women.” More from Roll Call, here.
One more thing: New flair could be coming. There is now a “Presidential Inauguration Support Ribbon” for the Guard troops who have deployed to D.C., Military.com reports. There’s also a “District of Columbia Emergency Service Ribbon” in the works.
But hold up: “Plans for their presentation are not yet final,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Carver, spokesman for the Virginia Air National Guard, said. “Other federal decorations are also being considered,” he added.
Worth noting: The new ribbons could create “an added level of complexity for Guard members, who sometimes must maintain two ribbon racks: one for federal-level awards, and another for state-level ones,” Military.com writes, explaining that, “When activated on Title 10 federal orders, used for combat deployments and other missions in active-duty status, the former rack is authorized; when on Title 32 orders, used for state-level missions, the latter is.” Read on here.
From Defense One
Biden Nominee For Top Policy Post Grilled On Iran, Tweets // Katie Bo Williams: “I really believe that the controversy over your nomination is essentially a proxy war” for the Iran nuclear deal, said Sen. Kaine.
Tie US Arms Exports to Values, Pentagon Policy Chief Nominee Says // Marcus Weisgerber: Colin Kahl says sales to Saudi Arabia may change under Biden administration.
Building a China Strategy Starts by Answering These Questions // Mike Dana and Lt. Col. Matthew Crouch: To begin, we must question our perceptions and eliminate our biases.
There’s a Better Way to Press for NATO Burden-Sharing // John Deni: An assessment of alliance planning for 2014-18 shows what actually gets members to boost collective defense.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here.
SecDef Austin published a new “message to the force” Thursday afternoon. In it, he laid out his “top three priorities and specific areas of focus,” which he said will help develop “the right people, priorities, and purpose of mission to continue to defend the Nation from enemies foreign and domestic.”
The priorities are: “defend the nation, take care of our people, and succeed through teamwork.”
Threats of note: Austin calls the pandemic “the greatest proximate challenge to our Nation’s security.” China is “our number one pacing challenge.” And “We face a growing climate crisis that is impacting our missions, plans, and capabilities and must be met by ambitious, immediate action.” Read on (via USNI News), here.
Eight House Armed Services Republicans want a “3% to 5% defense budget increase,” Defense News reported. The lawmakers sent their demand in a letter to President Biden on Thursday.
But just what that means “isn’t clear in the letter,” Defense News’s Joe Gould writes. “If the request pertains to the Defense Department’s base budget, which was $636 billion for fiscal 2021, that likely amounts to an increase of anywhere between $32 billion (to reach $668 billion) and $45 billion (to reach $681 billion),” Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Gould.
What’s more, “a 3 to 5 percent increase [in] growth above inflation would actually mean a base budget totaling $719 billion to $733 billion, Harrison said.”
Reading between the lines: “The more likely GOP red line seems to be whether there are spending cuts,” Politico’s Connor O’Brien tweeted Thursday after spotting the letter from the GOP lawmakers.
Related: How should the U.S. military budget when it comes to China? That’s the topic of discussion in a virtual event today at the Hudson Institute. The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Director, Michael Brown, will be attending — as will Air Force Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote. That starts at noon ET. Details and livestream here.
A new report says America’s post-9/11 wars “fuel repression and corruption, and escalate cycles of violence.” That’s the chief takeaway from researcher Stephanie Savell, who co-directs the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. She took a look at U.S. counterterrorism, or CT, operations in and around the West African nation of Burkina Faso in a report you can find (PDF) here.
BTW: America’s counterterrorism work spans more than 79 countries, Savell writes. And that CT work involves a wide array of tasks, including “training foreign militaries and police forces; conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions; offering logistical aid; commanding proxy forces; and assisting with border control measures and maritime operations.”
If this sounds somewhat familiar, it reminded us of a 2015 GAO report dissecting America’s military efforts to “build partner capacity” in host nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. The GAO assessed 20 cases since World War II and found building a host-nation’s military “was least effective as a tool for allowing the United States to extract itself from conflict.” It was, however, quite useful “for building interpersonal and institutional linkages, and for alliance building.”
Bye, bye, AUMF? President Biden reportedly wants to work with lawmakers “to repeal the war authorizations that have underpinned U.S. military operations across the globe for the past two decades,” Politico reports this morning. Biden’s openness “comes just two days after a bipartisan group of senators, led by Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), introduced a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and one passed in 1991 ahead of the first Iraq War.”
Said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, on Twitter today: “We are committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.”
Retaliation strike rewind: The U.S. military was ready to strike Syria when women and children were spotted near a separate target area about 30 minutes ahead of time. So President Biden called the strike off, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Rhetoric watch: The White House seems to be shifting from calling certain Middle East militias “Shia-backed” instead of a previous “Iranian-backed” descriptor, GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s National Security Advisor Omri Ceren tweeted this morning with illustrations.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it’s still shooting down Houthi armed drones fired at southern Saudi cities — at least six of them so far today (though the Houthis claim they launched eight), according to Reuters. Tiny bit more, here.
U.S. authorities froze about $1 billion that Myanmar's military rulers tried to move from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York three days after their Feb. 1 coup, Reuters reported Thursday. The attempted withdraw seemed to be “an apparent effort by Myanmar’s generals to limit exposure to international sanctions.”
Replay: Do sanctions work? NPR assessed the question back in 2018 in a “Planet Money” segment here.
Critical update: Microsoft just issued an emergency patch “for previously unknown vulnerabilities in Exchange Server software and reports of potential compromises of U.S. think tanks and defense industrial base entities,” POTUS46’s National Security Advisory Jake Sullivan tweeted Thursday — linking to the Microsoft update page, here, for elaboration.
And finally: This afternoon, AI and SOF matters converge when Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, joins and U.S. Special Operations Command Chief Technology Officer Snehal Antani for a virtual panel discussion on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. That’s happening at the Yale Special Operations Forces Conference 2021 at 1:50 p.m. ET. Details and registration here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!