COMPROMISE NDAA UNVEILED: The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act is likely to hit the House floor on Wednesday after both armed services committees briefed the press on details of the bill Monday. The Senate could vote on final passage and send the $716 billion must-pass bill to President Trump in early August, according to senior committee aides. “This legislation will strengthen our military’s readiness, provide our troops a pay raise, support effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy, drive further innovation in emerging technologies to secure our military advantage, and continue to reform the Department of Defense,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, the House Armed Services chairman, said in a statement. The NDAA is a compromise hashed out by lawmakers over the past two weeks behind closed doors. It sets policy and priorities for the coming year as the House and Senate continue work on appropriations legislation to fund the military.
Here are some of the bill's highlights:
MORE LOCKHEED WORKERS: Lockheed Martin will add 400 workers to boost production of the F-35 fighter jet, the most expensive in U.S. history, after making a good on an earlier promise to Trump to increase the aircraft's workforce by 1,800.
"The F-35 is an iconic product," Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson said in a statement. "The program supports 194,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide, and as we ramp up production we are creating even more opportunities for American workers."
Good Tuesday 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: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mattis have been meeting with their Australian counterparts in Palo Alto, Calif. They are scheduled to hold a joint press availability with Foreign Minister Julie Bishopand Defense Minister Marisa Payne of Australia at 9:40 a.m. California time, 12:40 p.m. in Washington.
We learned of today’s press conference courtesy of the State Department website, as the Pentagon has become more and more tight-lipped about Mattis’ travel schedule, releasing few details and often only acknowledging his whereabouts after the fact. Today’s public Pentagon schedule notes only that both Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford are traveling, with no mention of where they are or what they are doing.
Don’t expect to hear a lot from Mattis, as he is inclined to defer to the diplomats, and often says he sees his job as ensuring the State Department deals from a position of strength.
ODD MAN OUT: Mattis’ already low public profile continues to shrink as he increasingly appears to be the odd man out on Trump’s national security team. Mattis, who was once Trump’s favorite Cabinet member back when he liked to call the retired Marine general “Mad Dog,” now finds his views are rarely sought and his advice even more rarely followed. Mattis is the least visible defense secretary in decades, giving no interviews, appearing on no talk shows, and meeting reporters only away from cameras in unannounced informal sessions.
But for all the discord, there is no sign that Mattis is contemplating resigning in protest. Those who know him say that while he’s not that fond of the grueling job and certainly doesn’t need the money, it’s not in his nature to quit. He considers it his patriotic duty to serve the man who was duly elected president, they say, and remains deeply committed to the Constitution and his troops, and therefore plans to hold the line as long as he thinks he can do good.
TRUMP IN KC: Trump travels to Kansas City, Mo., today to speak to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The president’s remarks are set for 11:30 a.m. local time, 12:30 p.m. Eastern. While there, the president is also scheduled to participate in a roundtable with supporters, and speak at a luncheon fundraiser for Senate candidate Josh Hawley.
WILKIE CONFIRMED AS VA SEC: On a vote of 86-9 yesterday, the Senate confirmed Robert Wilkie as the next secretary of Veterans Affairs. Following the departure of Dave Shulkin this year, the agency has been headed on a temporary basis by acting secretary Peter O'Rourke.
At a “Make America Great Again” Rally in Fargo, N.D., this month, Trump said he felt guilty that he thrust his personal White House doctor Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson into the vicious world of politics. Jackson was forced to withdraw at the end of March after, in Trump’s words, “[Sen.] Jon Tester said things about him that were horrible and that weren't true.” Allegations of professional and personal misconduct remain under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general.
“You know I feel guilty. I feel guilty. Admiral Jackson was getting ready to leave service and he served many years admirably. Not a blemish. Perfect. Beautiful person,” Trump said at the July 5 rally. “He actually said I was healthy. You know he's the one.”
Trump said Jackson didn’t want the job, and only accepted the nomination reluctantly. “So I sort of feel guilty about this whole thing because what happened is he said, ‘Sir, if you would like me to do it I'll do it.’ Wasn't what he had in mind. I put him into the world of politics.”
DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY: Trump yesterday dismissed a Washington Post report that said he is privately fuming about the lack of progress in North Korea denuclearization talks as more “fake news.”
“But the Fake News is saying, without ever asking me (always anonymous sources), that I am angry because it is not going fast enough. Wrong, very happy!,” Trump tweeted. “A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy.”
NORTH KOREA IS DOING SOMETHING: Authoritative Korea monitoring site 38 North, which is now part of the Stimson Center, says commercial satellite imagery appears to show North Korea taking “an important first step” toward fulfilling a commitment made by Kim Jong Un at the June 12 Singapore Summit.
An analysis of the imagery of North Korea’s main satellite launch facility since 2012 indicates that the North has begun dismantling key facilities. “Most notably, these include the rail-mounted processing building—where space launch vehicles are assembled before moving them to the launch pad—and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles.”
You can see the images and read the full analysis of the activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station here. “Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea,” the site says.
TAKING A SHOT AT THE POST: The folks at 38 North also leveled some criticism of the Sunday Washington Post report that drew the ire of Trump, calling it “impatient reporting.”
What the story got right, wrote analyst Leon Sigal, “was that negotiating denuclearization will take patience,” a message that was at odds with the optimistic scenario national security adviser John Bolton floated on “Face the Nation.” Bolton said Pompeo would be discussing a “plan” with the North Koreans on “how to dismantle all of their WMD and ballistic missile programs in a year.”
What the Post story got wrong, Sigal wrote, was “not bothering to report whether Pompeo was authorized to put any offers as well as demands on the negotiating table and, if not, whether the failure to do so caused the North to respond the way it did.”
THE PUNISHER: The bombshell of the day was dropped by Sarah Sanders at yesterday’s White House briefing when she abruptly announced the president is looking to strip the security clearances of six former intelligence officials who have been among his sharpest critics.
“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicize and in some cases monetize their public service and security clearances,” Sanders said, while also suggesting some of the Obama-era officials may have been colluding with the Russians. “Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN:
The Washington Post reports that neither Comey nor McCabe still has security clearances, according to their representatives.
PETTY RETRIBUTION: “It’s kind of a sad commentary,” said Clapper on CNN, “where for political reasons, this is kind of a petty way of retribution, I suppose, for speaking out against the president which I think, on the part of all of us, are born out of genuine concerns about President Trump.”
Clapper, who along with Hayden, is a paid contributor to CNN, spoke to the network by phone immediately after Sanders’ briefing. “I guess legally the president has that prerogative. He can suspend or revoke clearances as he sees fit, and if he chooses to do it for political reasons, well, that's — I think that's a terrible precedent and a sad commentary. And it's an abuse of the system.”
THEY STARTED IT: The White House is blaming Iran for the latest escalation in rhetoric, insisting Trump's Sunday night threat to Tehran was simply intended to show he will no longer tolerate the regime's hostile words. "If anybody's inciting anything, look no further than to Iran," Sanders told reporters. "I'm not going to get into the president's strategy, but I think he's very clear about what he's not going to allow to take place."
TEHRAN’S REACTION: A high ranking Iranian officer yesterday dismissed Trump’s all-caps Twitter warning that Iran needs to be "cautious" about “never ever threatening” the United States as just “psychological warfare.”
Chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard’s volunteer Basij force Gen. Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar said Trump “won’t dare” take military action against Iran, according to an Islamic Society of North America news agency, the Times of Israel reported.
TRUMP’S NOT WORRIED: Trump says he’s unconcerned about fanning the winds of war between the U.S. and Iran. Asked by reporters at a White House event if he was worried about provoking Iran, Trump responded, “No at all.”
LAVROV MEETS NETANYAHU: Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Jerusalem yesterday for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a meeting that Russian President Vladimir Putinrequested a few days ago.
Israeli media reported that the discussion centered around a Russian proposal that would keep forces linked to Iran about 60 miles from the Golan Heights. Israel’s main concern is to keep Iran, which is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, as far away from its border as possible, according to the Associated Press.
MOSCOW THREATENS SEOUL: South Korean leaders' security is in "jeopardy” now that they have agreed to host an American missile defense system, a Russian diplomat said yesterday. “We have to take some retaliatory measures,” Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov told reporters, according to TASS, a state-run media outlet.
U.S. officials, after much deliberation with South Korea, deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system to the Korean Peninsula in response to a series of saber-rattling missile launches and nuclear tests by the North Korean regime. But China and Russia worry that the system will degrade the threat posed by their own ballistic missiles.
WARNING ON PUTIN: Senate Republicans are warning Trump against inviting Putin to the White House in the fall as the president continues to recover from the outcry after their summit in Helsinki last week.
While Republicans are not necessarily against Trump speaking with Putin and want him to keep channels of communication open, they are wary of the Russian head of state visiting the White House. They believe that staying in the good graces of NATO allies should be prioritized well ahead of a visit from the Russians.
“I’m one who thinks it’s a good thing for leaders of countries to talk, but I would consider putting that one on the back burner for a while," said Sen. John Cornyn.
BIG COAST GUARD HAUL: The Coast Guard seized nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of cocaine over the past two months from smugglers who had attempted to move drugs by boat from Central and South America to the U.S. through international waters, according to a spokesman.
Coast Guard vessels deployed to the region over the past two months intercepted traffickers and took approximately 52,900 pounds of cocaine valued at $729 million from those boats into custody, Coast Guard spokesman Chad Saylor confirmed to the Washington Examiner Monday.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE: The White House featured the F-35 yesterday as part of its “Made in America Product Showcase.” Trump singled out the aircraft during remarks, and included his standard line that enemy pilots can’t see the plane (they can).
"In case you hadn't noticed, there's an F-35 stealth fighter outside and it's beautiful parked on the South Lawn. I guess getting here — I know it didn't land on the South Lawn, but it's something very special. Can't see it. Where's Lockheed? Marillyn, yeah."