Biden and Pentagon circle wagons around Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley

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‘GREAT CONFIDENCE’: President Joe Biden has no intention of firing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley over published revelations that he sought to limit former President Donald Trump’s ability to launch a nuclear strike and told his Chinese counterpart he would warn him in advance of any U.S. military action aimed at China.

“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters at the White House, effectively signaling his job is secure for now. Milley, who serves at the pleasure of the president, would normally serve a four-year term, which would expire in September of 2023.

“The president knows General Milley. He has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “They've worked side-by-side through a range of international events, and the president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution.”


‘REGULAR COMMUNICATION’: Milley’s office issued a statement describing his calls to Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng in October and January as “in keeping with [his] duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”

“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with chiefs of defense across the world, including with China and Russia,” said Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the Joint Staff. “These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity, and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”

Butler said the calls were “staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency,” and he insisted Milley acted “within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.”


AVOIDING A KEY QUESTION: At yesterday’s Pentagon briefing, spokesman John Kirby described Milley’s calls with foreign counterparts as a “routine” part of his job, but he refused to address the allegation in the soon-to-be-published book, Peril, that Milley took the extraordinary step of promising to warn the Chinese of any pending attack.

“Would it also be routine in these counterpart conversations if the United States was planning to strike one of these locations for the chairman to inform the counterpart that the U.S. was about to strike,” one reporter asked.

“I'm not going to get into confirming or speaking to details in reporting,” Kirby replied, calling the question “hypothetical.”


SHOWDOWN AHEAD: Republicans in Congress aren’t buying the explanation that Milley’s calls to the Chinese general were just “business as usual.”

In a Twitter video yesterday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he believes the account in the book is true and that Milley himself was the source because “he wants to make himself look good.” In a letter to President Joe Biden Tuesday, Rubio said Milley “contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Milley is scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28, and he will face a vigorous cross-examination from Republicans.

“I don't want to try General Milley or anybody else in the media. Mike was a Green Beret. He was a warrior out there killing the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox yesterday. “I spent 33 years as a Judge Advocate in the Air Force, as a military judge, defense counsel, and prosecutor. So, before we court-martial somebody, let's get the evidence.”

“I want to see the transcript. And I want to hear from Milley,” said Graham. “And I will say this, having been a military lawyer for 33 years, if the book is accurate, and the conversation did occur, as described in the book, General Milley undercut civilian control.”

“We have to understand that in that transition period, in that election period, and then that transition, we are absolutely vulnerable to our adversaries,” said Florida Rep. Michael Waltz, a former Green Beret, at the same Fox appearance.

“If General Milley had such concerns about the commander in chief, did he share those with Secretary Pompeo, the national security adviser Robert O'Brien? Was this something the interagency was aware about? Had they seen this intelligence that cited that the Chinese were so concerned? They were perhaps considering a preemptive strike? So, there's a lot more to learn here, and that's why we have these hearings. And that's what we're looking forward to.”


Good Thursday 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 Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at 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.


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HAPPENING TODAY: The State Department is hosting the 2021 Australia-U.S. Ministerial consultations beginning at 9 a.m. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will hold a news conference with their Australian counterparts, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Peter Dutton, at 1:30 p.m., which will be livestreamed on both the Pentagon and State Department websites.

NEW ACRONYM, NEW SUBS FOR AUSTRALIA: The meeting follows last night’s announcement that the U.S. and the U.K. will be sharing highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia in order to provide the longtime ally with a fleet of eight nuclear-powered attack submarines.

President Joe Biden was joined virtually for the announcement by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the three leaders christened a new three-way partnership to share technology, scientists, and industry,

“And so, friends, AUKUS is born — a new enhanced trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” said Morrison, who said the first major initiative of AUKUS would be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.

“But let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” Morrison said. “And we will continue to meet all our nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”

Biden also stressed that point while citing America’s long relationship with Australia. “We’re not talking about nuclear-armed submarines. These are conventionally armed submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors. This technology is proven. It’s safe. And the United States and the U.K. have been operating nuclear-powered submarines for decades.”

“AUKUS — it sounds strange with all these acronyms, but it’s a good one, AUKUS,” Biden said. “Our nations and our brave fighting forces have stood shoulder-to-shoulder for literally more than 100 years: through the trench fighting in World War I, the island hopping of World War II, during the frigid winters in Korea, and the scorching heat of the Persian Gulf. The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom have long been faithful and capable partners, and we’re even closer today.”


CHINA DENOUNCES NEW ALLIANCE: Though nobody mentioned China at yesterday’s White House event, the building up of Australia’s submarine force is clearly aimed at countering Beijing's military expansion in the South China Sea.

“The pact, known as AUKUS, is a clear challenge to China in the Indo-Pacific and a deepening of military ties among close allies of more than a century,” according to the Atlantic Council.

“It tangibly strengthens the closest alliance relationships that the United States shares with allies in both the Indo-Pacific and Europe — the United Kingdom and Australia in particular,” writes Barry Pavel of the Atlantic Council. “A major signal from this alliance initiative, the ‘AUKUS alliance,’ of which China will take note, is that a European ally of the United States is joining an Indo-Pacific ally of the United States in working together to develop undersea capabilities and to patrol the seas of the Pacific.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the new pact was "severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear nonproliferation efforts,” according to Reuters.

NORTH KOREA’S CRUISE MISSILE REVEALS ‘BLIND SPOT’: A nuclear-tipped cruise missile has been called the world’s most destabilizing weapon because in a time of crisis, a nuclear-armed cruise missile is indistinguishable from a conventional weapon — until it lands.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a nonproliferation expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, notes that while North Korea’s recent launch of two ballistic missiles was in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, the real game-changer was its test of a cruise missile that was not covered by U.N. resolution.

“This weekend's test of what is believed to be a land-attack cruise missile (LACM) by Pyongyang cannot afford to be minimized,” Behnam tells the Washington Examiner. “A functioning LACM capability that according to the North Koreans is a ‘strategic’ weapon means that Pyongyang may be in possession of its first-ever nuclear-capable cruise missile. It is also assumed to be the longest-range cruise missile in the Kim regime's arsenal to date. This has the potential to be a game-changer.”

“The LACM test should remind policymakers that there is a blind spot in existing U.N. Security Council Resolutions on North Korea, which explicitly focus on ballistic missiles as delivery vehicles for WMD.”


The Rundown

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CBS News: U.S. Marine Wounded In Kabul Attack Gives Eyewitness Account

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Yonhap: U.S. Condemns N. Korean Missile Launch, Stands Ready To Engage In Dialogue: Price

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Air Force Magazine: Survey Finds Broad Public Support for Nuclear Deterrence, Modernization The Air Force Has Been Trying to Kill the A-10 Warthog for 14 Years The New Royal Navy: Stealth Submarines, Drones and Robot Warships? US Military Sees China’s Nuclear Weapons Build-Up as Top Concern Opinion: Why China Loves America's Defense Budget Inaction



8 a.m. — Potomac Officers Club virtual Fall 2021 5G Summit, with Jay Dryer, director of the Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities Office.

9 a.m. — German Marshall Fund of the United States virtual discussion on a new report, "Security Implications of Chinese Infrastructure Investment: Mapping the China Playbook in Europe,” with Dario Cristiani, senior fellow at GMFUS; Jonas Parello-Plesner, nonresident senior fellow at GMFUS; Mareike Ohlberg, senior fellow at GMFUS; and Andrew Small, senior transatlantic fellow at GMFUS.

10 a.m. — Middle East Institute virtual discussion: “The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration's Middle East policy," with retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and president of the Brookings Institution.

1 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Congress and Authorizations for Use of Military Force Repeal, with Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich.; and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; and Tess Bridgeman, co-editor in chief of Just Security


12 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual book discussion on Three Dangerous Men: Russia, China, Iran, and the Rise of Irregular Warfare, with author Seth Jones, director of the CSIS International Security Program; and David Sanger, national security correspondent at the New York Times.

1 p.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual book discussion on The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, with author former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal at the Marathon Initiative.


2:20 a.m. EDT/8:20 a.m. CET — NATO’s highest Military Authority, the Military Committee meets in Athens, Greece. Gen. Konstantinos Floros, Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff will host the Conference.

5:45 p.m. CET — Joint press conference with the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer and the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Gen. Konstantinos Floros.

12 p.m. — ”Justice for J6 rally,” on the west side of the U.S. Capitol, which is intended to protest the treatment of protesters arrested in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.


“I don't want to try General Milley or anybody else in the media. Mike was a Green Beret. He was a warrior out there killing the bad guys. I spent 33 years as a Judge Advocate in the Air Force, as a military judge, defense counsel, and prosecutor. So, before we court-martial somebody, let's get the evidence.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Fox.

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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: Biden and Pentagon circle wagons around Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley

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