Defense & National Security — US to send Ukraine more weapons

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that the U.S. will send Ukraine four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) in an upcoming security assistance package.

We’ll break down the announcement. Plus, we’ll talk about the Senate Armed Services Committee urging the Pentagon to end its efforts on rooting out extremism in the military in its version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

More weapons headed to Ukraine

The U.S. will be sending Ukraine four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) in another security assistance package to be announced later this week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday.

In opening remarks at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Austin said the incoming package will be the 16th drawdown of weapons from the Pentagon’s inventory since August 2021.

The HIMARS’ usefulness: The U.S. first sent HIMARS around early June to allow the Ukrainians to more precisely strike targets from greater distances inside Ukraine. Both U.S. and Ukrainian officials have touted their effectiveness on the battlefield.

Speaking to reporters later on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said that more than 200 Ukrainians have been trained on the systems.

The systems in the upcoming package would bring the number of launchers the U.S. has sent to 16. The U.S. has sent 12 thus far, most recently sending four in a $400 million assistance package announced on July 8.

Other countries stepping up: In his remarks, Austin touted other countries that have stepped up their support for Ukraine, such as the United Kingdom sending its own MLRS systems and Poland agreeing to transfer three battalions of 155mm self-propelled howitzers.

The Pentagon chief also thanked Norway for working with the U.S. to transfer two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, also known as Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems.

Read the full story here.

Austin, Milley warn Iran on helping Russia

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned Iran against helping Russia amid concerns that Tehran would send drones to help Moscow in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“We would advise Iran to not do that,” Austin said in a joint press conference alongside Milley.

“We think that’s a really, really bad idea, and I’ll leave that at that,” he added.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the U.S. believed Iran was preparing to provide hundreds of drones to Russia on an “expedited timeline,” and that Tehran was preparing to train Russian forces to use the drones as early as this month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a visit to Iran Tuesday, during which he met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The Iranian official lauded Putin for sending troops into Ukraine, saying that if Moscow hadn’t done that, then it would instead face attacks from NATO, The Associated Press reported.

Read more here.

Senate hesitant on Pentagon’s extremism focus

The Senate Armed Services Committee signaled opposition to the Department of Defense’s efforts to counter extremism in the military in a report on its version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The committee released the text of the bill this week, after voting 23-3 to advance the measure last month.

  • What the measure says: In the accompanying report, the committee says “the vast majority of servicemembers serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform.”  

  • “The committee believes that spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately,” the report continues.

The language in the bill’s report was approved by a vote of 14-12, with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who typically caucuses with Democrats, joining all Republicans voting in favor of the language.

The Pentagon’s extremism work: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a force-wide “stand down” to address extremism in February 2021, amid the revelation that some defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol had some connection to the military.

  • The committee’s language cited a report from the Pentagon’s Countering Extremist Activity Working Group released in December, which says that available data showed cases of prohibited extremist activity among service members was rare.  

  • However, that report also said that even a small number of cases could pose problems for the military at large.

A few caveats: The language in the committee report is not legally binding. Even then, it remains to be seen whether such language will be included in the final version of the defense bill that will have to be negotiated between the House and the Senate in conference committee.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) offered a similar amendment to the House version of the NDAA, which would express the sense that rooting out extremism was not a “top priority” of the Pentagon. The House Armed Services Committee turned down that amendment on a party-line vote.

The Democratic-led House did include an amendment to compel government officials to prepare a report on white supremacy and neo-Nazi activity in the military and law enforcement.

Read the full story here.

Secret Service turns over single Jan. 6 text

The only text message the Secret Service turned over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a plea from then Capitol Police Steven Sund asking for help.

Lawmakers on the panel are increasingly confused and irritated by the lack of messages from the Secret Service after it subpoenaed the records following a letter from a government watchdog indicating the messages had been “erased” during a device replacement program.

“That’s all that we have,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) told The Hill.

A source close to the Secret Service previously told The Hill that Sund had contacted the Secret Service on Jan. 6 requesting assistance.

“That message was captured and it was turned over,” the source said.

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Aspen Security Forum will continue at 10:45 a.m.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a nominations hearing at 9:30 a.m.

  • The Sente Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a nominations hearing at 10:15 a.m.

  • The National Defense Industrial Association will host its International Division Quarterly Meeting at 1 p.m.

  • The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its primetime hearing at 8 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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