Today's D Brief: HASC budget mark; US troops injured in Syria; New Ukraine aid; Next CNO?; And a bit more.
A first look at this year’s defense policy bill is now available. House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., on Monday released (PDF) what’s effectively the first draft of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, a draft known more formally as the “chairman’s mark.” Rogers’s HASC subcommittees also released their marks of defense policy legislation—zeroing in on programs related to cyber defense, special operations, nuclear weapons, and more.
The 417-page markup includes some surprises, including a provision to eliminate the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, or CAPE, which has existed in various forms since the early 1960s. (A 2018 RAND report argued that the U.S. military needs more, not less, of CAPE’s independent analysis.)
The mark also limits the money U.S. Space Command can use to build or renovate buildings “for temporary or permanent use” until a permanent location for the command’s headquarters is chosen. The choices include Colorado, where it is now, and Rogers’ home state of Alabama. (Ohio lawmakers are also making an 11th-hour case for the Buckeye State.)
Rogers authorized a review of the Pentagon’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs, including “the total cost of DEI training in manpower hours for the last five fiscal years,” and the “total cost in dollars for all training conducted in DEI, equal opportunity, and extremism for the last five fiscal years,” among other items. If adopted in the final text to be hammered out by House and Senate lawmakers, the Pentagon would have until March of next year to deliver the relevant documents to Rogers, who voted to overturn election results in 2021.
The chairman also wants a review of “smaller dollar value” military aid sent to Ukraine, with a briefing by Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin no later than December of this year. The idea is to assess “lower quantity capabilities made by small businesses or non-traditional providers” in Ukraine, and how the U.S. military has responded to those requests.
There’s also a section setting aside $80 million to buy Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, for Ukraine. The Biden administration has rebuffed Kyiv’s requests for the long-range missile—and U.S. lawmakers who want to fulfill them. Rogers has ordered a briefing on this effort by the end of the calendar year.
The seapower and projection forces’ mark would fund the purchase of nine Navy warships—but would edit the Navy’s request to subtract a submarine tender and add an amphibious transport dock ship, or LPD, which was the top item on the Marine Corps’ unfunded priorities list, according to Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney. The other eight ships include a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, two Virginia-class attack subs, two destroyers, two frigates, and an oiler, lawmakers said Monday.
Background: The Navy decided to pause buying more LPDs about four months ago so it could more closely study anticipated costs. That pause, plus anticipated retirements, would have shrunk the service’s amphib fleet below the legal 31-ship floor.
The subcommittee’s markup would also bar the Navy from retiring three Whidbey Island-class amphibs. This is déjà vu for the USS Germantown, Gunston Hall, and Tortuga, which were on the Navy’s chopping block last year but saved by lawmakers in last year’s defense policy bill. Similarly, the mark aims to retain the aging, costly-to-maintain Ticonderoga-class cruisers, saying that the Navy cannot retire the USS Shiloh and Cowpens, or “more than three other guided missile cruisers.”
Next: The full HASC will consider the chairman’s mark June 21. You can find the remaining HASC marks via their respective subcommittees, including intelligence and special operations; tactical air and land forces; the military personnel; readiness; cyber, information technologies, and innovation; and the country’s strategic [or, nuclear] forces.
Stay tuned: We’ll have more on the legislation throughout the week; be sure to visit defenseone.com for more details.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, Audrey Decker, Jennifer Hlad, Caitlin Kenney, and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1971, the New York Times began publishing the so-called “Pentagon Papers,” which revealed a secretive history of the conflict and internal debate from U.S. officials assessing how poorly the Vietnam war had progressed, despite years of public messaging to the contrary.
Twenty-two American troops were injured Sunday in a helicopter crash in northeastern Syria, U.S. Central Command said in a brief statement Monday evening. All are being treated for their injuries; 10 were flown to “higher care facilities” outside the Middle East because of the extent of their wounds.
No enemy fire was reported in the area, according to the statement, and the cause of the crash is under investigation.
New: The U.S. is sending another $325 million in military aid to Ukraine, including more Strykers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles that can replace those damaged in Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, Voice of America’s Carla Babb reported Monday. More artillery rounds—like HIMARS, e.g.—are also expected to be included in this latest batch of arms to Kyiv, as well as NASAMS air defense munitions.
For the record, “To date, the U.S. has donated 109 M2A2-ODS Bradley variants and four B-FIST variants as well as as 90 Strykers,” The Drive reported Tuesday morning.
Coming soon, maybe: Depleted-uranium tank rounds for use with U.S.-made Abrams tanks. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the decision is nearly final after weeks of internal debate at the White House. The Pentagon is also reportedly working on a plan to accelerate arms sales to allied nations by training about 1,400 officers for the task. The Wall Street Journal reported that development Tuesday as well, ahead of a briefing on the topic later today at the Pentagon.
Developing: A Russian missile struck an apartment building in southern Ukraine Tuesday, killing at least four people in the complex and another seven people in a warehouse in the city of Kryvyi Rih. Twenty-eight others were injured in the strikes, Reuters reports from the city.
- “US lawmakers ask Biden administration to punish South Africa for alleged support for Russia,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from South Africa;
- And “Every Block Is Another Battle: Ukraine’s Latest Eastern Stand,” the New York Times reported Tuesday from the city of Marinka.
Happening now on Capitol Hill: Marine Gen. Eric Smith is answering questions from senators considering his possible new job as commandant of the Marine Corps. Smith is presently the service’s assistant commandant; and if confirmed, he’s expected to continue the Marines’ Force Design 2030 overhaul begun by outgoing Commandant Gen. David Berger. Defense One’s Catch the hearing live, here.
By the way: Two active-duty Marines on Monday pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of demonstrating in a Capitol building during the attempted insurrection of January 6, 2021. That makes now three active-duty Marines facing similar charges from the riot on that day, according to the Associated Press. Read over each of their charges here, here, and here.
One of the Marines even posted an image from that day on his Instagram account. That image was part of the evidence prosecutors used to pursue charges. The same Marine told another Instagram user he thought the country needed another civil war because, as he put it, “everything in this country is corrupt.” AP has a bit more, here.
Developing: SecDef Austin sent his advice for the country’s next Navy chief to the White House, and it wasn’t the officer some in Washington thought it might be. According to NBC News, Adm. Samuel Paparo was Austin’s choice to lead the Navy for the next four years. Paparo currently commands the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, which is a position he’s held since May 2021.
Some in D.C. expected Adm. Lisa Franchetti to get the nod. She’s the service’s current vice chief of naval operations, and she’s been in that post since the autumn. Had she been selected by Austin, approved by President Biden, and confirmed by the Senate, “She would have been the first female service member to hold the job and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” NBC News writes. She’s also not exactly a stranger to operating in the Pacific, having previously commanded U.S. Naval Forces in Korea, e.g.
Many expected Paparo to bounce from the Pacific Fleet to lead Indo-Pacific Command, which is a common progression for naval officers. But several senior defense officials told NBC that it’s Paparo’s nomination to lead the Navy that’s sitting in front of the president this week, and not Franchetti’s. There’s no word yet on when Biden may choose who he would like to lead the service. Read more at NBC, here.
And lastly: Join us tomorrow when Defense One's two-day Tech Summit kicks off with a day of virtual speakers and panels, including Poland’s NATO Ambassador Tomasz Szatkowski, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich of the service’s Central Command, CENTCOM’s chief tech officer Schuyler Moore, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s chief technology officer Timothy Bunning, and more.
Day two, on Thursday, is an in-person event held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. Review the full slate of speakers here, and don’t forget to register in advance, here.