Today's D Brief: Defense bill heads to the Senate; New missile defense in Guam?; Jan. 6 as practice; Tragedy in southern India; And a bit more.
Afghan war review among few big changes in the $768 billion defense policy bill. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (PDF), which was released publicly Tuesday, passed in a 363-70 House vote later that evening. Now it heads to the Senate, where it’s expected to advance fairly easily before heading to the desk of President Joe Biden.
Included this year:
- A total of $740 billion for the Defense Department, and another almost $28 billion for defense-related work at the Department of Energy (the totals come out to about $25 billion more than the White House asked for);
- 2.7% pay increase for service members and civilians;
- A dozen more F/A-18E/F aircraft at a cost of $1 billion;
- Half a billion dollars for five more F-15EX aircraft;
- Nearly $5 billion for five new naval ships—two destroyers, two expeditionary fast transports, and a fleet oiler;
- Almost a quarter of a billion more than requested for submarine development programs;
- $67 million to AFRICOM for the always-requested increase in surveillance and intelligence assets, and another $18 million to SOUTHCOM for the same;
- $50 million more in supplies for Ukraine’s military;
- An extra $500 million for Indo-Pacific Command;
- A requirement that the White House (emphasis added) “develop a grand strategy with respect to China”;
- A symbolic assertion “that it shall be the policy of the United States to maintain the ability...to resist a fait accompli against Taiwan”;
- A demand that the Pentagon chief draw up “a comprehensive missile defense capability that can be fielded on Guam within 10 years”;
- And that Afghan war inquiry will include 16 members, it must span the entire two-decade duration of the conflict, and it has to feature “recommendations and lessons learned” by the time it’s finished—three years after its first meeting.
Read over a more detailed summary of included items (PDF), here. Coverage continues below the fold.
From Defense One
Army General Wants More Missile Defense Within First Island Chain // Caitlin M. Kenney: “I don't think we have enough right now,” Maj. Gen. Vowell said.
Defense One Radio, Ep. 92: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin // Defense One Staff : Defense One's Tara Copp sat down with the SecDef as part of the Outlook 2022 event series.
Austin Rejects ‘Red Lines’ for Taiwan, Ukraine // Tara Copp: As crises loom, defense secretary reveals a bit of his diplomacy-first thinking.
January 6 Was Practice // Barton Gellman, The Atlantic: Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.
DODIIS Conference Wire: AI's Promise and Peril // Defense One Staff : As DODIIS opened, several leaders said machine learning would help keep tabs on Russian and Chinese advances—eventually.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 2019, the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Sexual assault reforms advance at last, but with several notable changes. Some, but not all, of the military justice reforms that Rep. Jackie Speier, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and others have fought for over the last decade made it into the final text of the 2022 NDAA. And while at least one former military lawyer hailed the new changes as transformative and historic, Gillibrand said Congressional leaders had “gutted” her bill and delivered “a major setback” to troops.
The new NDAA will create a special trial prosecutor in each of the military services, and this prosecutor will be selected by and report to the service secretary. Their duties involve deciding whether certain cases, including sexual assault cases, should go to court martial, and their decisions will be binding.
But the bill stops short of removing commanders as the convening authority, which still gives them the power to convene the court martial, to pick the jury, choose witnesses, and perform other critical tasks. What they won’t be able to do is make the decision on whether to prosecute. The bill also includes measures to improve physical security on bases and allow sexual assault victims to report crimes via a phone call instead of in person.
“Without hyperbole, this is the biggest reform of military justice in our country’s history. But it was a missed opportunity to really go all the way,” Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders advocacy group and a retired chief prosecutor for the Air Force, told Defense One’s Jennifer Hlad. Christensen said he is “certain” that military leaders were “licking their wounds” after the text was published. “They were able to stop some needed reforms, but they never thought they would lose” prosecutorial decision-making ability for commanders. And while commanders won’t be able to dismiss cases outright, Christensen noted, those commanders could still allow defendants to be discharged in lieu of trial, or grant them immunity in return for testifying against someone else.
Background: Since at least 2011, Speier has been proposing legislation to remove prosecutorial decisions from the chain of command on sexual assault cases. After the release of Tuesday’s NDAA, the veteran lawmaker announced in a statement that “the clarion call of sexual assault survivors has been heard.” These new changes, Speier said, represent “Democrats and Republicans coming together to finally right generations of injustice.”
Gillibrand, however, is still steamed. The New York senator, who just last week sent a letter to leaders urging them to keep her legislation in the final NDAA, said she believes the House and Senate Armed Services leadership “ignored the will of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a majority of the House in order to do the bidding of the Pentagon.” In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, she said she plans to call for a full floor vote on her bill.
The latest: Sens. Gillibrand, Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, and Richard Blumenthal spoke about the issue in a press conference Wednesday morning on the Hill. According to Gillibrand, everything in the NDAA is “fine,” but an up and down vote would “correct” the problems that were introduced by the new changes. Among the alleged problems to fix: Gillibrand’s bill included 38 crimes, while the NDAA text only includes 11. Blumenthal says that “makes no sense” and will make it “impossible” to prosecute sexual assault cases.
Precedented? Gillibrand also noted that calling for an up-or-down vote on an issue like this is not new. When Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, she said, opponents had removed it from the NDAA and asked for a separate vote.
Conscript women for America’s wars? Not yet. A requirement for young women to register for the draft was also removed from the NDAA text, additionally frustrating Sens. Ernst and Gillibrand, who called it “outrageous” and “obscene” that in a national emergency, only men would be called to serve in the military.
“We don’t expect to have a draft again in the United States, ever,” Gillibrand said, but to say women should not be called up if one was instituted is “a slap in the face to every service member who is female.” Ernst—a combat veteran who retired from the Army National Guard as a lieutenant colonel—agreed, saying she is disappointed in the decision.
Tragedy strikes in India where its military chief was killed when his helicopter crashed in a steep, hilly region outside the southern city of Coonoor. At least 12 others on board the Russian-made Mi-17V5 also died in the apparent accident.
RIP Gen. Bipin Rawat, age 63. He was a former infantryman with 40 years of service, including time in Kashmir. Rawat “was appointed as India's first Chief of Defence Staff by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in late 2019,” Reuters reports from New Delhi. His wife also perished in the crash. Read more from Reuters, here.
Lastly: Don’t forget to tune in (and register if you haven’t already) to Defense One’s Outlook 2022 event again today to catch live interviews with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Undersecretary Colin Kahl, as well as a slate of other interviews and panels.
#D1Outlook2022 continues tomorrow, and includes a live interview with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.