Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of $1.5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump's Yemen veto
Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Ellen Mitchell, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.
THE TOPLINE: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences Graham to support Defense pick he previously declared his ‘adversary’ Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report MORE has approved the transfer of $1.5 billion from Pentagon coffers — including more than $600 million from an Afghan security forces account — to build more than 120 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Pentagon statement released Friday.
“Today we reprogrammed $1.5 billion toward the construction of more than 120 miles of border barrier without impacting readiness,” Shanahan said in a statement.
“The funds were culled from a variety of sources, to include unexecuted prior year funds, the suspension of reimbursements to Pakistan, and costs reductions in a series of contracts.”
The statement adds that the Defense Department “is fully engaged on the crisis along our southwest border,” with more than 4,000 service members and 19 aircraft there supporting the Department of Homeland Services.
Where the money is coming from: Reuters reported that the transfer would include $604 million from Afghan security forces accounts, with the rest coming from Air Force programs, a chemical demilitarization program, a retirement account and military dollars for Pakistan.
An unnamed U.S. official told the news service that $4.9 billion was appropriated for the security forces for fiscal 2019, and that money was taken from the account as savings in contracts were found.
Lawmaker response: Following news of the transfer, every Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies slammed the decision in a letter to Shanahan.
The lawmakers worry that the latest reprogramming will come at the expense of the military’s readiness.
“Once again, the Department of Defense has ignored decades of precedent and cooperation with the Congress in carrying out a transfer of funds without regard to any consultation with the Appropriations Committee,” they wrote. “We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members, given the finite reprogramming authority available.”
The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenators sound alarm over looming budget, shutdown battles Five times presidents sparked controversy using executive privilege McConnell eyes end-of-month deadline as disaster aid hits new ‘obstacles’ MORE (Vt.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators sound alarm over looming budget, shutdown battles Overnight Health Care: HHS issues rule requiring drug prices in TV ads | Grassley, Wyden working on plan to cap drug costs in Medicare | Warren to donate money from family behind opioid giant Dem senator calls on McConnell to endorse bipartisan bill to raise smoking age to 21 MORE (Ill.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump hits Iran with new sanctions amid standoff | Joint Chiefs chair floats longer military presence in Afghanistan | North Korea defends rocket test Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R.I.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Health Care: HHS issues rule requiring drug prices in TV ads | Grassley, Wyden working on plan to cap drug costs in Medicare | Warren to donate money from family behind opioid giant Dem senator calls on McConnell to endorse bipartisan bill to raise smoking age to 21 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy MORE (Hawaii), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump hits Iran with new sanctions amid standoff | Joint Chiefs chair floats longer military presence in Afghanistan | North Korea defends rocket test Joint Chiefs chair floats longer military presence in Afghanistan Outdated mining law lets industry use and abuse public lands for free MORE (N.M.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayA workplace safety solution Anita Hill would be proud of Lobbying world Overnight Health Care: House Dems hold first hearing on ‘Medicare for All’ | Trump urges Dem senator to revive ObamaCare talks | Booming cannabis market puts pressure on FDA MORE (Wash.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyIran, Venezuela puts spotlight on Trump adviser John Bolton Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Iran tensions escalate with carrier deployment | Trump floats letting service academy athletes go pro quicker | Venezuela tests Trump, Bolton relationship Tensions with Iran escalate beyond war of words MORE (Conn.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Health Care: Trump urges Congress to take action on surprise medical bills | New bipartisan drug pricing bill introduced | Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal Booker, Ayanna Pressley introduce bill taking aim at black maternal death rates LGBT lawmakers say nation is ready for gay president MORE (Wis.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate panel approves Rosenstein successor Senate Democrats ask Graham to bring Mueller to testify Dems hammer Barr on Mueller MORE (Calif.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterMontana governor Steve Bullock to announce bid for presidency: report Mitch McConnell is not invincible 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall MORE (Mont.).
The background: The transfer comes after the Department of Defense in March moved nearly $1 billion from counter-drug funding to pay for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Comey after CNN town hall: ‘He brought the FBI down’ White House says US, China trade talks to continue Friday Giuliani traveling to Ukraine to push for probes that could be ‘very helpful’ to Trump MORE‘s border wall. In addition, Trump in February reprogrammed $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the wall as part of his national emergency declaration.
Shanahan told lawmakers on Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers is currently on contract to build about 256 miles of barrier.
“How you will see this materialize in the next six months is about 63 new miles of wall will come online, so about half a mile a day will be produced,” Shanahan said during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
He also noted that there are now about 4,364 U.S. service members at the border, a mix of active-duty and National Guard members.
The administration plans to pull a total of $6.1 billion from Pentagon accounts for border barriers, including $2.5 billion from counter-drug programs and $3.6 billion from military construction funds.
IRANIAN CLERIC CLAIMS US FLEET ‘CAN BE DESTROYED WITH ONE MISSILE’: A high-ranking cleric in the Iranian government claimed Friday that a U.S. carrier strike group headed to the Persian Gulf could be destroyed by a single missile fired by Iran’s military, the latest threat from Tehran amid heightened tensions with the U.S.
Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad, who serves in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, said that “their billion [-dollar] fleet can be destroyed with one missile,” Reuters reported, citing an Iranian news agency.
“If they attempt any move, they will… [face] dozens of missiles because at that time [President Hassan Rouhani’s] officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader [Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei],” Tabatabai-Nejad added, according to the news service.
A refresher: The Trump administration announced Sunday that it would deploy the carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln to the region along with a bomber task force to address “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”
Tabatabai-Nejad, a hard-line conservative cleric, is seen as close to Khamenei in the country, according to Reuters, and his threats could indicate growing pressure from Iran’s conservative wing to press tensions with the U.S.
A top official with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard addressed the tensions as well, stating that “no talks will be held with the Americans, and the Americans will not dare take military action against us,” Reuters reported.
Iran’s government sees the U.S. as “unreliable” following the Trump administration’s decision last year to abandon the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, the Revolutionary Guard official reportedly added.
White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report US, Iran must both tread lightly with tensions running so high MORE said this week that the U.S. will not take military action in the region unless Iranian military forces or allied militia groups attempt such an act first.
“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” he said.
1 DEAD, SIX INJURED IN MARINES TRAINING CRASH: One marine died and six were injured Thursday in a crash at Camp Pendleton in Southern California.
The incident occurred after a light armored vehicle rolled over during training. The Marine Corps said in a statement the cause of the crash is under investigation.
The military said the six injured Marines were taken to a local hospital and were not seriously injured. The deceased Marine’s identity was not revealed as next of kin had not yet been notified.
“This is a tragic event and our thoughts are with the family, friends and the unit at this difficult time,” officials said.
The details: The Marines are from the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
Thursday’s is the second fatal crash at Camp Pendleton in less than a month. The military announced in April that 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica, an eight-year veteran, died after a tactical vehicle he was driving rolled over at Camp Pendleton during training. Two other Marines suffered minor injuries in that crash.
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YEMEN RESOLUTION SPONSOR PRESSES PELOSI TO SUE OVER VETO: Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBill allowing Congress to hire Dreamers advances Kamala Harris calls for scrapping Trump tax law: ‘Get rid of the whole thing’ Anticipation builds for Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.) said Friday he is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to go to court over President Trump’s veto of his Yemen war powers resolution.
“I’ve been speaking with Speaker Pelosi now to take that to the Supreme Court because under The Steel Seizure Case, it’s unsettled law whether the presidential veto is the final word or whether Congress actually has the power under our founding to adjudicate matters of war and peace,” Khanna said at the National Security Action forum.
The Steel Seizure Case is a 1952 Supreme Court ruling related to whether the president has unilateral power as commander in chief. The court ruled the president did not have the power to seize and operate steel mills during the Korean War.
Pelosi’s response: Asked about Khanna’s effort, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told The Hill that “we continue to consider all viable options to end this humanitarian crisis.”
Background: Khanna was the chief House sponsor of a resolution that would have required Trump to withdraw U.S. military forces in or “affecting” Yemen unless they are fighting al Qaeda. The measure reached Trump’s desk in April, but the president vetoed the resolution, arguing it was “unnecessary” and “dangerous.”
A Senate vote to override the veto fell short of the 67 votes needed to do so.
— The Hill: Dem senator: ‘Everything that President Trump has touched internationally has gone to crap’
— The Hill: Yemen resolution sponsor pushing Pelosi to sue over Trump veto
— The Hill: Report: Renewed US-North Korea tensions followed Trump, Kim battles with own advisers
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