MATTIS’ NEW BUDGET FIGHT: After a year’s worth of work, the Pentagon was just putting the finishing touches on a $733 billion total defense spending package for the coming year. Then President Trump intervened with new marching orders: Give me a $700 billion budget instead. Faced with the $33 billion cut, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has decided he is not ready to give up the original spending plan. “We are not going to reverse course on all of that planning but we will build two budgets,” Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said Friday.
Call it the two-budget strategy. Having the second budget gives Mattis an idea of what goes on the chopping block as well as some leverage negotiating with the president and the fiscally hawkish Mick Mulvaney, who is director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. But the Pentagon’s original $733 billion proposal could also provide ammunition for opponents of Trump’s defense cuts, which also might be part of the idea.
“I can anticipate that it is not going to be very difficult for people to get ahold of that budget,” said Travis Sharp, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “Even if DOD does not initiate that because that might not be considered responsible, Congress is going to want to find a way to get a copy of that bigger budget. Then Congress will be able to evaluate for itself what the tradeoffs were between $733 billion and $700 billion.”
PROGRAMS IN THE CROSSHAIRS: In the meantime, Trump’s proposal to slash about 4.5 percent from next year’s budget would most likely deal a blow to the Pentagon’s development and purchase of new weapons, including hypersonic missiles. “We have a number of options going on with hypersonic missiles and these projects we can choose either to do them or defer them,” Shanahan said at the Military Reporters and Editors conference. The Air Force signed contracts with defense giant Lockheed Martin worth $1.4 billion this year to develop missiles that can travel five times faster than the speed of sound.
David Norquist, the DOD comptroller, is combing through the budget proposal looking for other potential cuts. “How fast do we modernize, that is probably the biggest knob that we have to turn,” Shanahan said. That could mean pressure on other flagship weapons initiatives such as the F-35 fighter program, a replacement for the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines that are key to the military’s modernization efforts, said Seamus Daniels, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It is the usual suspects of what can be modulated because DOD has really considerable high fixed costs that they can’t change like salaries or defense health program that is growing around 4 percent like every year. The places they usually can get money out fast are modernization and procurement, and operations as well,” said Frederico Bartels, a defense budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
BLUE WAVE AND CONTRACTORS: A looming fight over military budgets if Democrats regain power in Congress may handicap growth at U.S. defense contractors that have benefited from GOP spending.
While robust backlogs at the largest firms should shield profits in the months through September 2019, the period for which Trump recently signed a $674 billion spending bill, the possible shakeup coupled with the pending expiration of a two-year budget agreement threatens his plans for $700 billion in defense funding in fiscal 2020.
Good Monday 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.
HAPPENING TODAY — TROOPS TO THE BORDER: Mattis is moving out smartly to implement Trump’s orders to dispatch active-duty troops to the Mexico border to bolster security as a caravan of asylum-seeking refugees from Central American slowly make its way on foot to the U.S.
Mattis said the unusual deployment (typically National Guard troops are used to support domestic law enforcement) is being treated the same way the military would prepare for a hurricane. “We are preparing what we call ‘defense support for civilian authorities,’” Mattis told reporters on his flight from Bahrain to the Czech Republic yesterday. “If you look at how we organize for the storms … We surround the storm.”
Mattis indicated that some equipment and construction materials, such barriers, are already being moved to the region and that troops will quickly follow. “The orders are being drafted and some material is moving. Right now, logistics are always a tough part where you have to actually line up first to gear up, where the troops at, what are the dimensions,” he said, indicating some final decisions about units and numbers of troops will be made as soon as today.
SEALING THE BORDER: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is not confirming reports that Trump is planning a major speech this week, perhaps as soon tomorrow, announcing he is sealing the border to all immigrants including those seeking asylum. He would be using the same authority he invoked for the first travel ban, Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“I think what the president is making clear is every possible action, authority, executive program, is on the table to consider, to ensure that it is clear that there is a right and a legal way to come to this country and no other ways will be tolerated,” Nielsen said on Fox News Sunday. “My general message to this caravan is: Do not come. You will not be allowed in. There is a right way to emigrate to the United States and this is not it.”
MINIMUM HIGH ENTHUSIASM: When Mattis was questioned about the need for more troops on the border, he refused to go there, insisting his job is simply to respond to the request. And despite his hurricane analogy, he insisted he wasn’t describing the immigrant caravan as a looming storm.
“I prefer not to even answer,” Mattis said. “For us, it's a military problem that we're given … a response to the caravan directed by the president based on what Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says we need.”
And “No,” he said, “I'm not trying to say, this is a storm, OK. I'm just saying this is a mission in support of the civilian authorities and here's how we go through it.”
It would appear to be another case in which Mattis has taken what the Pentagon sees as an impulsive order from the commander in chief and massaged it into something the military is happy to salute. Read more about how “the Mattis touch” can rub the rough edges off of Trump’s surprise policy pronouncements.
DOMESTIC TERRORISM: Trump called the massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday “an evil anti-semitic attack,” that is “an assault on humanity.” The FBI has labeled it a hate crime, but they are not calling it domestic terrorism.
“There's no indication that he's working with anyone else. And so we have charged it and are treating it as a hate crime,” said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady at a news conference yesterday. “The distinction between a hate crime and domestic terrorism is, a hate crime is where an individual is animated by a hatred or certain animus towards a person of a certain ethnicity or religious faith. And it becomes domestic terrorism where there is an ideology that that person is then also trying to propagate through violence,” he said.
The USA Patriot Act in Section 802 provides his definition. “A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act ‘dangerous to human life’ that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”
POOR EXCUSE FOR A MAN: And while we’re on the subject of definitions, we note that in discussing the Pittsburgh synagogue with reporters, Mattis suggested the gunman didn’t qualify for status as a human being.
“There's one person responsible. This individual — I wanted to call him a man — who is the poorest excuse for a man you could even come up with who would use a weapon in a house of worship on unarmed innocent people and even shoot four policemen and then surrender himself. This is a coward and he is not a man by any definition that we use in the Department of Defense,” Mattis said to reporters traveling with him to Prague.
NO OPTIONS LEFT ON INF: Speaking over the weekend in Bahrain, Mattis defended Trump’s decision to begin the process of withdrawing from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because of conclusive proof that Russia is violating the treaty with its deployment of land-based cruise missiles.
“Now, a point to remember here is two American administrations, Democrat and Republican, have worked for nearly five years to bring Russia back into compliance. Remember, there's only two nations that signed this treaty and one of them have been out of compliance for years. We have met diplomatically and it's been unproductive over two administrations,” Mattis said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue Saturday.
“Eventually, we have to look reality in the eye. That is to mean that we are walking away from arms control. But arms control must be more than words on the paper. It must be actions, and so I believe that it actually strengthens the level of commitment, because we do not dance around noncompliance issues and look the other way as if everything is fine.”
The next day Mattis told reporters that when he consulted with NATO allies in Brussels recently the allies were fresh out of ideas. “I laid out the situation again, and I said, ‘I need your advice. I need to know we have only unpalatable options,’ that's the words I used, ‘I need to know if you have any ideas about what we can do to bring Russia back into compliance to save this treaty.’ So far, we have not been able to find any and that's from 28 other nations in Europe.”
IRAN’S DIRTY DOZEN: A report out this morning from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies names 12 senior Iranian government officials who are said to be responsible for major human rights abuses against the Iranian people. The report is sharply critical of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is often described as a moderate. The report concludes Rouhani appointed some of the regime’s top human rights abusers.
“They rose within the Iranian bureaucracy because of their abuses, not in spite of them,” writes FDD Senior Iran Analyst Tzvi Kahn, in the report titled, “Profiles of Iranian Repression: Architects of Human Rights Abuse in the Islamic Republic.”
“The Trump administration has repeatedly condemned Iran’s human rights abuses, but it can do much more,” Kahn said. “By adding these individuals to U.S. sanctions lists within the context of a broader economic pressure campaign, Washington can boost the morale of protesters, challenge the regime’s radical Islamist ideology, and make Tehran pay for its behavior. At the same time, America can send a message to its allies that the Iranian people deserve their robust and concerted support.”
IRANIAN FAST BOATS CLOSE-UP: Late last week, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel got a firsthand look at the cat and mouse harassment that goes on routinely between U.S. warships and Iranian fast attack boats in the Persian Gulf.
Two fast attack boats under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 300 yards of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex Friday during a visit by Votel. Washington Post reporter Missy Ryan posted a video with her story, and the AP’s Lolita Baldor posted a similar video on Twitter.
The U.S. warship used loudspeakers to warn the Iranians to back off after the boats threatened to shoot at one of the ship’s helicopters. According to the Post, a total of six small boats approached the Essex Friday in the kind of harassment that typically happens several times a week.
The U.S. does not have a full-size aircraft carrier in the region at the moment, but the smaller flattop Essex could be seen bristling with short take-off and vertical landing Marine Corps F-35Bs.
KEEN SWORD: The U.S. may be dialing down joint military drills with South Korea, but that moratorium on major exercises does not appear to have ended with America’s other big ally in the region. Today marks the start of Exercise Keen Sword ’19, billed as “the largest and most complex U.S.-Japan bilateral field training exercise.”
It’s a big one featuring dozens of U.S. and Japanese ships, hundreds of aircraft and roughly 57,000 personnel from both nations. The exercise is designed to increase the combat readiness and interoperability of the U.S. military and the Japan Self Defense Forces in drills that practice “critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities,” according to a statement from 7th Fleet.
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Business Insider: 56 years ago, the Cuban missile crisis took the world to the brink of nuclear war — here's what it looked like from sunny Florida beaches
Reuters: Russia says preparing answers to U.S. questions on arms control pact: RIA
New York Times: Saudi Arabia Rejects Turkey’s Extradition Request in Khashoggi Killing
USA Today: Fiance of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi declines White House invitation: report
Stars and Stripes: Japan Developing Supersonic Glide Bombs To Defend Remote Islands Also Claimed By China
South China Morning Post: US, Taiwan Military Ties Closer Than Ever As Donald Trump Challenges Beijing
MONDAY | OCT. 29
10 am. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Thinking Strategically About Human Rights Challenges in Negotiations with North Korea. heritage.org
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Foreign Policy and the 2018 Midterm Elections with James Carville, Mary Matalin and Amy Walter. cfr.org
2 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Health Security and North Korea: Advance Film Screening and Discussion of The Gathering Health Storm Inside North Korea. csis.org
4 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual. wilsoncenter.org
TUESDAY | OCT. 30
4:30 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. Book Launch of Just Security in an Undergoverned World. stimson.org
3 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The Protection of Civilians in U.S. Partnered Operations with Mark Swayne, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs. csis.org
3:30 p.m. 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW. A Conversation on Cybersecurity Strategy With DHS and DOD with Kenneth Rapuano, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security. carnegieendowment.org
5:30 p.m. Webcast Conversation with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. usip.org
WEDNESDAY | OCT. 31
12:30 p.m. 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Dilemmas of Stabilization: Syria and Beyond. carnegieendowment.org
THURSDAY | NOV. 1
7 a.m. 7525 Colshire Dr. 2018 Cyber-Augmented Operations Division Fall Conference. ndia.org
8 a.m. 1001 16th St. NW. 28th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law Conference. americanbar.org
6 p.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Stalin’s Propaganda and Putin’s Information Wars. cato.org
FRIDAY | NOV. 2
7:30 a.m. 2101 Wilson Blvd. Health Affairs Breakfast featuring John Tenaglia, Deputy Assistant Director of the Defense Health Agency. ndia.org
8 a.m. 300 First St. SE. Space Training and Exercises Discussion with Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Director of Operations and Communications at Headquarters Air Force Space Command. mitchellaerospacepower.org
8 a.m. 1777 F St. NW. A Conversation with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. cfr.org
9 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Assessing the Readiness of the U.S. military. brookings.edu
11 a.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. Course Change or Full Speed Ahead? Post-Midterm U.S Foreign Policy's Impact on Indo-Pacific. stimson.org
MONDAY | NOV. 5
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Artificial Intelligence and National Security: The Importance of the AI Ecosystem. csis.org
3 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Book Launch: The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World with Author Robert Kagan. csis.org