‘I’M NOT PLAYING GAMES’: It began on Friday when President Trump warned “I’m not playing games" in threatening to close the border with Mexico and keep it closed to all trade “for a long time” unless Mexico takes action to stop the flood of immigrants overwhelming U.S. border processing facilities. “It certainly isn't a bluff,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, on Fox News Sunday.
“You can take the president seriously, and here's why,” Conway said. “What he's looking at is that 4,000 migrants apprehended in one day recently. We're on track this month for close to 100,000.”
Closing the border with America’s third-largest trading partner, with a half-trillion dollars of goods exchanged every year and thousands of Americans going back and forth every day, would be felt immediately in the U.S. economy. But Trump says Mexico is making “absolutely a fortune” off the United States. “They have a trade surplus of over $100 billion, which is far bigger than anybody understands," he said.
‘A TOTALLY UNREALISTIC BOAST’: “When the president says he's going to close the border, that is a totally unrealistic boast on his part,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “What we need to do is focus on what's happening in Central America, where three countries are dissembling before our eyes, and people are desperately coming to the United States. The president's cutting off aid to these countries will not solve that problem.”
‘WE WERE NOT LYING’: On CNN, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney insisted that closing the border to try to get Mexico to do more is “not an unreasonable position.” “We could prevent a lot of what's happening on the southern border by preventing people from moving into Mexico in the first place.”
Mulvaney said part of the problem is that Customs and Border Protection personnel have been moved from legal ports of entry to patrol areas where there is no wall. “I'm not making this up,” he said. “We were not lying to people when we said that this was an emergency. Very few people believed us, especially folks in the media and the Democrat Party. It is an emergency.”
TRUMP’S TWEETS: On Saturday, Trump tweeted: “Mexico must use its very strong immigration laws to stop the many thousands of people trying to get into the USA. Our detention areas are maxed out & we will take no more illegals. Next step is to close the Border! This will also help us with stopping the Drug flow from Mexico!”
The blame, Trump tweeted, lies squarely with the Democrats. “It would be so easy to fix our weak and very stupid Democrat inspired immigration laws. In less than one hour, and then a vote, the problem would be solved. But the Dems don’t care about the crime, they don’t want any victory for Trump and the Republicans, even if good for USA!”
Then last night, he doubled down on Twitter. “The Democrats are allowing a ridiculous asylum system and major loopholes to remain as a mainstay of our immigration system. Mexico is likewise doing NOTHING, a very bad combination for our Country. Homeland Security is being sooo very nice, but not for long!”
WHAT’S THE PLAN?: So far there have been no details released on how the border would be sealed. The U.S. military has about 5,300 troops on the border, but they’re not expected to be used. Customs and Border Protection officials have been given orders to prepare for a shutdown.
Good Monday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Kelly Jane Torrance (@kjtorrance). 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: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at the Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., this morning, followed by a private meeting with college leaders and State Department students and faculty. Pompeo’s speech will focus on “how American diplomats and military personnel rely on each other to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives to the benefit of the American people,” according to the State Department. It will be live streamed at 8:45 a.m. at www.state.gov.
HAPPENING TOMORROW: President Trump meets with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg a day before Stoltenberg addresses a joint meeting of Congress to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the transatlantic alliance, which will be marked by NATO foreign ministers at their meeting here in Washington Thursday and Friday.
Trump has been a constant critic of NATO, insisting the other 28 members don’t pay their fair share and the United States spends too much to defend them, without appropriate reimbursement. “We're spending a tremendous amount of money on many countries, protecting countries that are very rich that can certainly afford to pay us and then some,” Trump said in Vietnam at the end of February.
In a 2014 deal that predates Trump’s election, all NATO members agreed to meet a goal of spending 2 percent of their GDP on their own defense by 2024, with 20 percent going to equipment and capabilities.
But Trump has argued that only since he threatened the allies have they made much progress toward the 2 percent goal. And Stoltenberg has been happy to give Trump credit, knowing it’s the surest way to stay on the American president's good side.
Trump said in Hanoi, “We're gaining a lot of money. We've picked up over $100 billion just in NATO over the last two years.” Actually, Stoltenberg said some NATO allies will spend an additional $100 billion by the end of 2020.
Last week, NATO agreed to extend Stolenberg’s mandate another two years, until Sept. 30, 2022.
A KICK IN THE ASS: Former U.S. Army Europe commander retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges has accused President Trump of kicking NATO allies "in the ass publicly.”
“It's just so unhelpful when he's kicking the most important allies in the ass publicly and doing things that are not helpful,” Hodges said in an interview Thursday with the nonprofit Public Radio International.
“I never in my life imagined an American president would call into question Article 5,” Hodges said, a reference to the bedrock principle of the NATO alliance that an attack on one is an attack on all. “That's unbelievable to me, and it's causing people to have to do a lot of extra work to explain ‘Don't worry, we're still committed, and we're here.’”
AL SHABAB KILLS FOUR: Al Shabab militants in Somalia claim to have executed four people who were accused of working for British, Djibouti, and Somali intelligence agencies.
“Al-Shabab announced the killings on its Andalus radio station, saying they were carried out in a public square in Kamsuma, a town in the Lower Juba region. Al-Shabab, which is al-Qaeda's East African affiliate, has fought for years to impose a strict version of Islam in the Horn of Africa nation,” according to a report in the Washington Post.
CSIS ON MISSILE DEFENSE: The Center for Strategic and International Studies’s Missile Defense Project has released a new brief, “Masterpiece Theater: Missed Opportunities for Missile Defense in the 2020 Budget,” which breaks down the 2020 missile defense budget submission, what it means for adapting to great power competition, and the delay of a space-based sensor layer.
“Unfortunately, the budget is inadequate to address the challenge of complex and integrated air and missile attack from major powers,” the report concludes.
HERITAGE ON SAUDI HUMAN RIGHTS: And the Heritage Foundation is out with a briefing paper arguing that Congress needs to address Saudi human rights issues without undermining U.S. security.
“The Trump Administration and Congress remain divided over how to respond to the October 2018 Riyadh-sponsored assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. President Trump has refrained from directly criticizing Crown Prince Bin Salman, the suspected driving force behind the plot, while the Senate voted unanimously to rebuke the crown prince for his alleged complicity in the murder. Motivated largely by outrage over Khashoggi’s death, the Senate also voted on March 13, 2019, to end U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition fighting an Iran-backed faction in Yemen, and the House will soon vote on the same measure, despite an expected presidential veto,” writes James Phillips, a senior research fellow.
“Congress must make sure that its response does not make a bad situation worse by playing into the hands of U.S. adversaries, such as Iran, Russia, and China.”
His key takeaways, in his words:
- Saudi Arabia has been a long-standing U.S. strategic partner, but the bilateral relationship has been troubled by clashing interests and values on several issues.
- The U.S. needs a policy that clearly denounces the killing of dissidents—without blowing up Saudi–U.S. security cooperation.
- To encourage Riyadh to improve the Saudi human rights situation, Washington must remain effectively engaged and not torpedo the alliance.
SEAL AWAITS FATE: President Trump says a Navy SEAL charged with murdering an ISIS prisoner will be moved to “less restrictive confinement.”
The case of Eddie Gallagher, 39, a 19-year military veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has become a cause celebre, with supporters raising $264,810 to help him and his family fight what they describe as “this travesty of justice.” Gallagher allegedly texted a photo of himself cradling the dead fighter's head, saying that he "got him with my hunting knife."
In his most recent tour, fighting ISIS in Iraq, Gallagher was rated the top platoon leader in SEAL Team Seven and nominated for the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest honor.
Now he faces premeditated murder charges in the death of the ISIS prisoner and aggravated assault charges for allegedly firing sniper rounds at civilians. For the past six months, he has been detained at Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in California. His war crimes trial is due to start May 28.
JAPAN’S 1ST F-35 SQUADRON: Japan’s Air Self Defense Force has stood up its first operational F-35A fighter squadron, according to a release from the F-35 Joint Program Office. The 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron is replacing the F-4EJ Kai with the F-35A.
“This is a major milestone for the F-35 Enterprise, as it marks the first F-35 IOC for an Indo-Pacific region customer. This significant achievement is a testament to the global nature of this program and the F-35 Joint Program Office values the long-established bond with our Japan allies,” said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 program executive officer, in a statement.
Japan’s F-35 operational squadron is the latest to achieve “initial operating capability,” joining squadrons operated by the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy, along with the Israeli and Italian air forces and the Royal Air Force and Navy.
ARMY ROTATIONS: The Army has announced the latest troop rotations to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea.
- The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, is rotating to Iraq.
- The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is rotating to the Republic of Korea.
- The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is rotating to Afghanistan.
AF GOLF COURSES COULD LOSE TO BORDER WALL: Air Force officials are reportedly warning that the Trump administration’s plan to use military construction money to build a border wall could keep them from building more golf courses.
The report, carried on a popular website that bills itself as “The American military's most-trusted news source,” quoted a person identified as director of morale, welfare, and recreation policy for the Department of Defense saying, “These are essential the morale of our airmen and really to the whole joint force. It’s not just officers that use them. I’ve seen drunken first sergeants out on the links, too. We’re in the process of expanding our footprint and hope to be up to a 3,000-hole global network in the next two years.”
Given today’s date, a degree of skepticism may be appropriate. Keep that in mind as you go through your day.
AP: Iraqi leader says there’s ‘consensus’ on U.S. troops presence
AP: Comedian leads Ukraine presidential vote, runoff in 3 weeks
New York Times: Russia’s Military Mission Creep Advances to a New Front: Africa
Reuters: Treaty’s End Would Give U.S., Russia Impetus To Make More Nukes: Study
Agence France-Presse: Taiwan Blasts China For ‘Reckless And Provocative’ Fighter Jet Incursion
Washington Examiner: U.S. Afghan policy driven by years of 'hubris and mendacity': IG report
Washington Post: Afghan Vice President Survives Taliban Assassination Attempt
AP: Vietnam woman pleads guilty to lesser charge in Kim killing
Washington Post: For religious minorities targeted by ISIS, new schools and clinics. But where are the people?
Real Clear Defense: Why Is the Air Force Backtracking on Competition in Space Launch?
Washington Post: For the first time, a state’s National Guard command staff is made up of all women
New York Times: Countries Want to Ban ‘Weaponized’ Social Media. What Would That Look Like?
Washington Examiner: Opinion: Trump must urgently wake up his defense secretary to give Indo-Pacific Command what it needs
USNI News: Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to Depart Norfolk on Monday
USNI News: U.K. Firm Claims it Found Famed U.S. Warship Bonhomme Richard; Experts Aren’t So Sure
MONDAY | APRIL 1
11:30 a.m. Pentagon River Entrance. Acting Defense Secretary Parick Shanahan welcomes South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo to the Pentagon. www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Today-in-DoD/
2 p.m. Pentagon River Entrance. Acting Defense Secretary Parick Shanahan welcomes Philippines Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana to the Pentagon. www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Today-in-DoD/
TUESDAY | APRIL 2
9 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW. Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies host a conference: "The Future of Statecraft.” Keynote by former national security adviser Susan Rice. Panel discussions all day examine the future of great power cooperation, international institutions, and economic statecraft. www.csis.org/events.
9:30 a.m. SD-G50 Dirksen. Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Gen. Tod Wolters to be commander, U.S. European Command, and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Gen. Stephen Townsend to be commander, U.S. Africa Command. www.armed-services.senate.gov.
10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn. Army Secretary Mark Esper, Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, and Air Force Chief Gen. David Goldfein testify before the House Armed Services Committee on their respective FY 2020 budgets. armedservices.house.gov/hearings
10 a.m. Pentagon River Entrance. Acting Defense Secretary Parick Shanahan welcomes Mongolian Defense Minister Nyamaagiin Enkhbold to the Pentagon. www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Today-in-DoD/
11:45 a.m. 201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. The Hudson Institute’s “Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Technology: Implications for U.S. National Security,” with Hudson senior fellow Arthur Herman; Aaron VanDevender, Founders Fund; Elsa Kania, Center for a New American Security; and Hudson senior fellow Sorin Ducaru, a former senior NATO official for emerging security challenges. Register here.
2 p.m. Service JAGs testify before a House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing examining the role of the commander in sexual assault prosecutions.
3 p.m. 232-A Russell. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland hearing on Army modernization. Witnesses: Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, deputy chief of staff; Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander, Army Futures Command; and Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology. www.armed-services.senate.gov.
WEDNESDAY | APRIL 3
2:30 p.m. SR-232A, Russell. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower hearing on Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Programs. Witnesses: Vice Adm. Michael Moran, principal military deputy assistant secretary of the navy for research, development and acquisition; Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps; Rear Adm. Scott Conn, director, air warfare, office of the Chief of Naval Operations. www.armed-services.senate.gov.
2:30 p.m. SR-222, Russell. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces heating on Missile Defense Policies and Programs. Witnesses: John Rood, under secretary of defense for policy; Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander, U.S. Northern Commander; Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director, Missile Defense Agency; Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. www.armed-services.senate.gov.
THURSDAY | APRIL 4
8 a.m. 1030 15th Street, N.W. Atlantic Council “Conversation on Water Security in Asia and the Implications for the Continent’s Peace and Security,” featuring remarks by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Open to open to the public and press. Register at www.atlanticcouncil.org.
9:30 a.m. SD-G50 Dirksen. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Posture of the Department of the Air Force. Witnesses: Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. www.armed-services.senate.gov.
11:45 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Hudson Institute Event: “Making Military Cloud a Success: Critical Next Steps for DoD’s IT Strategy.” Speakers: Fred Schneider, professor, Cornell University; and founding chairman, National Academies Forum on Cyber Resilience; William Schneider, senior fellow, Hudson Institute; and Arthur Herman, senior fellow and director, Quantum Alliance Initiative, Hudson Institute. www.hudson.org/events
TUESDAY | APRIL 9
9 a.m. 1152 15th Street N.W. Center for a New American Security briefing on “NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting and 70th Anniversary of the Alliance.” www.cnas.org/events
President Trump welcomes Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sissi to the White House.
THURSDAY | APRIL 11
9:00 a.m. 1667 K Street N.W. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments releases report: “An Air Force for an Era of Great Power Competition,” which recommends creating a future aircraft inventory that would be more lethal and better able to operate in future contested and highly contested environments compared to today's force. Experts include: Mark Gunzinger, Carl Rehberg, Jacob Cohn, Timothy Walton, Lukas Autenried. Register at www.csbaonline.org
10:30 a.m. United States Naval Academy. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., delivers the keynote address at the “National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America's Colleges, Universities, and Service Academies.” Hosted by the secretaries of the Navy, Army, and Air Force.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It's just so unhelpful when he's kicking the most important allies in the ass publicly and doing things that are not helpful. I never in my life imagined an American president would call into question Article 5. That's unbelievable to me and it's causing people to have to do a lot of extra work to explain, ‘Don't worry, we're still committed, and we're here.’”
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. Army Europe, discussing President Trump’s treatment of NATO allies in an interview on PRI’s “The World.”